Guys will like all the references to pro football and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Gals will love the dance competition that’s framed as the climax of the story.
Film buffs will love that a new, contemporary, adult screwball comedy has arrived — smart, funny, profane, romantic, insightful and moving.
This is great moviemaking.
“Silver Linings Playbook” does the seemingly impossible with completely unconventional leading characters, each of whom is, to put it mildly, in a mentally jagged bad patch.
It substitutes hilarity for sentimentality and makes you love them. Root for them. Laugh at the absurdity of the broken situations they find themselves in.
Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) has just lost her husband, a police officer. Prone to depression, she found his death so devastating that she turned to promiscuity to dull the pain. It recently got her fired.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) is just out of a mental hospital. Refusing to take meds for his bipolar disorder, he’s completely fixated on getting back Nikki, the wife who cheated on him and triggered his worst episode.
The doctors didn’t want Pat to leave. His mom (Jacki Weaver) took pity. Dad (Robert De Niro) isn’t so sure it was a good move. But then, Dad’s an obsessive compulsive with a violent temper and an illegal pro-football bookie operation. He’s also a die-hard Eagles fan.
Pat’s code word is Excelsior. He says it to remind himself to use negativity as fuel and find the silver lining in every situation. It doesn’t always work.
Pat and Tiffany meet at a dinner party thrown by Pat’s best friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz, hilarious). Ronnie’s wife (Julia Stiles) is Tiffany’s “perfect” controlling sister. The dinner party ends just after the salad and before the main course. It’s a memorable meeting though, including the walk home.
Nikki and Tiffany’s sister are friends. Pat wants to get a letter to Nikki, which his shrink (Anupam Kher, also hilarious) reminds him would violate a restraining order. But Tiffany is willing to deliver the letter if Pat will agree to be her dance partner for a coming competition.
The rest you need to discover in a theater near you.
Director David O. Russell’s brilliant script often has you questioning who’s really a little bit crazy here, since so many of the supporting characters seem to be various degrees off center. One of my favorites is Danny (Chris Tucker), a repeat escapee from the mental hospital who knows how to work the system.
None of these characters are shallow cartoons. They’re grounded in reality. The best moments in the film — between Pat and his dad or Tiffany and her sister or, especially, Pat and Tiffany — let you know the emotions are all too raw and real. With a cast this gifted, you aren’t left to guess what they’re thinking and feeling.
Well, also because Pat has no filters and Tiffany is brutally blunt.
You’ll learn to love that about them, too.
“Silver Linings Playbook” has become my all-time favorite comedy about mental illness. It’s also the best romantic comedy of any type to come along in years.
Look for Lawrence, Cooper, De Niro and Russell all to score Oscar nominations, along with a best-picture nod.
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