Lots of hype surrounds Silver Linings Playbook and I’m not sure I buy into the Best Picture scenario, but as rom-dramedies go, there are not a lot of comparable films. At the center is bipolar Pat (Bradley Cooper), just released after 8 months from the loony bin, where he made a plea bargain to go instead of jail for assaulting the man he found bonking his wife Nikki in the shower. Pat comes to stay with his parents because his (ex)wife sold their house and has a restraining order out against him, that and he has no job and he’s crazy! And yet, in his delusional state, he is certain that he is going to get back together with his wife now. And to that end he agrees to have dinner at old friend Ronnie’s, whose wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) is BFFs with Nikki, expecting that she will tell her how much better he is, and he will welcomed back with open arms. At that dinner, he meets Veronica’s sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has recently lost her husband and is clearly on an equal plane of crazy.
Love doesn’t blossom right away, because Pat is unwilling to give up on the Nikki delusion, but he and Tiffany do develop a relationship. They understand where the other is coming from as no one who is not struggling with sanity might. And he enlists her to try and get messages to Nikki. She agrees to do it only if he will be her dance partner for some big competition she wants to enter. He reluctantly accepts her terms. Meanwhile Pat’s bookie father (Robert DeNiro) has his own little OCD wackiness going on. He is obsessed with Philadelphia Eagles football and is betting on games to make enough cash to open a business. He has all kinds of superstitions that must be followed for his team to win and isn’t afraid to bet big when he is sure all the signs are there, which lands him in a seriously risky position that (surprise!) only Pat can get him out of.
Silver Linings Playbook is ultimately about two crazies helping each other get better by seeing past the surface. And it’s fortunate that the two leads do have good chemistry. Bradley Cooper has done a lot of the same smarmy roles over the past few years, and this role definitely shows he has more range. And for Jennifer Lawrence in her first adult role, this is a character she sinks her teeth into and gets right down to the bone with the kookie factor. The ending dance-off is pretty clichéd, and the idea that you can cure crazy by finding the right man/woman is a bit far fetched, (and I must say the audience laughing at mental illness made me a bit uncomfortable at times,) but ultimately this is a pleasantly unusual dramedy well told, very funny in places, with great performances. I don’t think it is for everyone. It is kind of odd. But it would probably make a good date movie or chick outing. Bring your own Lithium.