In Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell's unhinged and fearless romantic comedy, Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a Philadelphia school teacher recently released from an eight-month stint in the psych ward. Pat's bipolar condition has cost him his job, his house and his wife. But he's determined to make things right as he moves back in with his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.
When Pat meets recently widowed Tiffany Maxwell, a similarly damaged soul played with ferocity by Jennifer Lawrence, the two begin to orbit one another with instinctual attraction. They seem connected on some cosmic frequency: "We're not like the rest of them," Tiffany says. "We're not liars."
Silver Linings Playbook has the overall shape of a traditional romantic comedy, but inside those lines it plays by different rules entirely. Director Russell (The Fighter) builds his scenes around twisty, swerving arcs of dramatic tension and comic energy. His inquisitive camera moves willfully, lingering on odd details. Russell coaxes vigorous performances out of the cast, too. Lawrence is particularly impressive, suggesting worlds of hurt beneath her feisty Philly girl act.
Probably the most surprising thing about Silver Linings Playbook is how relentlessly funny it is. The dialogue is rooted deeply in character—you'll find no rom-com one-liners here. As such, the laughs arise with organic force, triggering that slightly out-of-control quality that can manifest in genuine fits of hysteria. You know the feeling when you literally can't stop laughing? And how that's a little scary?
Pat and Tiffany live like that all the time, in their manic phases, and they get the can't-stop-crying thing too, when the pendulum swings back. The film's great accomplishment here is conveying that feeling to the audience. Silver Linings Playbook is romantic comedy cranked to 11—reckless and satisfying.
This article appeared in print with the headline "In the same boat."