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Dan's Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Should people who belong on medication for mental disorders date each other? Who knows, but it makes for a great romantic comedy.
Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)

Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok, Matthew Russell, Cheryl Williams, Patrick McDade, Brea Bee.

Written by David O. Russell, based on the book by Matthew Quick.

Directed by David O. Russell.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:


Mental disorders aren't all that funny to people who have them, and it isn't much fun for their families, either. I usually balk at the idea of comedies based on characters with such problems, since it sort of trivializes a painful, often intractable situation for those who suffer life-long pain and frustration. Silver Linings Playbook is such a film, but the result is an enjoyable film with a few stand out performances.

Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a Philadelphia-area substitute teacher just released after several months from a mental institution for treatment some sort of bipolar disorder. Pat's time in the "funny farm" was required by a judge after went on a violent tirade upon discovering his wife having an affair with another man. His mother Delores (Jackie Weaver) brings Pat home where his dad Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) practices a particular pseudo-religion of following the Philadelphia Eagles NFL team. His dad has his own anger issues, obviously suffering from some sort of OCD. Pat Sr. makes a living as a bookmaker, while requiring strict superstitious OCD-like activity from family members to keep the luck flowing his way.

Pat Jr.'s goal is to recover and show he's a changed man to win his wife back, but he refuses to take medication, often getting into scuffles with family members and friends. One of his friends Ronnie (John Ortiz) sets Pat Jr. up with his wife's (Julia Stiles) sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) on a blind date. Tiffany is an equally unbalanced woman, a widow who often engages in promiscuous affairs with men and women she hardly knows.

Pat Jr. and Tiffany form some sort of strange relationship, and eventually enter into a pact. Pat will be Tiffany's dance partner for a big competition, and Tiffany agrees to deliver a letter to Pat's wife (since she has a restraining order against him, and she is acquainted with her through her sister).

As the dance competition gets closer, Pat Sr.'s pressure on his son to participate in his Eagles worship grows stronger. At forst, Pat Sr. disapproves of his son's relationship with Tiffany, but ends up betting on the her dance competition and the Eagles for a big gambling payoff, adding more pressure to the young couple's mental troubles. Things get even more complicated when Pat's ex-wife shows up at the competition.

Will Pat Jr. and Tiffany survive? Can they find love?

Silver Linings Playbook is neither a full-fledged romantic comedy, nor a bonafide drama, falling into the ambiguous 'dramedy' category. Either way, it has the ability to make you laugh and cry at the complex problems experienced by the principal characters, well played by a talented cast.

Director David O. Russell again shows he can get powerful performances from his actors, an ensemble anchored by the awesome Jennifer Lawrence. Cooper is brilliant as well, delivering the best performance of his career. De Niro, an actor who has slipped into playing too many dull characters of late also stands out with something a little more complex than a version of himself.

If you are familiar with the ups and downs of mental disorders and the effects they have on loved ones, Silver Linings Playbook might be a little too much fantasy to swallow. I'm not sure throwing two manic depressive lovers together is ever a very good remedy for what ails them, but if you put those doubts aside, Silver Linings Playbook is a very good, enjoyable film.


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