Bradley Cooper seems to have found a suitable and invigorating role in David O. Russell’s newest venture, Silver Linings Playbook. It’s thankfully not the typical romantic comedy, with a lovingly quirky damsel who flips the normalcy of the down-on-his-luck, charming good guy. In this adaptation of Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, Russell ignites passion and depth, in a movie that’s filled with comedic off-centered jibes, charming characters, and a beautifully paced storyline.
Pat Solitano, played by Cooper, is fresh out of the mental hospital with no home, no wife, and no life to return to. Eight months prior he came home to find his wife in the shower with another man, who he nearly beat to death, thus landing him in the mental institution. Pat charges out of the hospital determined to take his life back, and with an idea on how to do it. With excellent camera work and editing, the jagged nature of Pat’s head is handed over to the audience, jarring each movement of his maddened, yet upbeat approach to becoming the successful and loving husband to which his wife might return. He moves in with his parents, who want nothing more than for Pat to share their love of the Philadelphia Eagles and spend time with them. We soon find out Pat’s not the only hothead in the family. His father (Robert De Niro) is no longer allowed at the Philadelphia football stadium for fighting during games. De Niro is more effortless and engaging than he has been in years, and it’s the chemistry of these characters and their bizarre interactions that give this film so much to love.
During Pat’s journey to regain the trust of his wife, he meets the comparably unstable Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence. While Pat considers himself in the best shape of his life, focused and ready to regain his momentum, Tiffany just wants a friend. She is alone and ostracized after her husband’s death, which drove her to be overly promiscuous for some time and earn her an undignified reputation from the town. Pat’s unfiltered commentary towards her regarding her husband’s death is alarming and yet strangely hilarious, and they coincidentally and unknowingly battle each other’s emotional denial with the honesty they’ve adapted from their collective tragedies. Yet Pat remains unwilling to become close with another woman due to his insistence on returning to his wife, much to the guarded distaste of Tiffany. Tiffany, meanwhile, is easy on her own flaws while continually haggling Pat about his own. This dichotomy drives the story, stirring up a sense hope for these downtrodden souls and all their misshapen mania.
Will Pat accept that he does require consistent help with his mental volatility? Will he accept that his marriage is over, but there is, as Tiffany tries to show him, a future? It takes a hodgepodge of ingredients — familial imbalance and love, unexpected friendships, farcical mischief – all nicely balanced by Russell, to bring Pat to his senses. The movie ends with an exhilarating dance competition that revives its pace and leaves the story on a high note.