Susan Granger’s review of “Silver Linings Playbook” (The Weinstein Company)
This quirky, off-beat, romantic dramedy explores dysfunctional relationships between unstable, psychologically damaged people.
After spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain after violently attacking his wife’s lover in the shower, Pat Solatano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is a recently released mental patient. He’s lost everything – his wife, his teaching job and his house – but not hope. And he has a genial, new, group therapy-friend Danny (Chris Tucker), who enjoys escaping from confinement.
Determined to control his anger and remain positive about reconciling with his wife, bi-polar Pat moves in with his parents: his superstitious, OCD, Philadelphia Eagles-loving, bookmaking father, Pat. Sr. (Robert De Niro), and sweetly concerned, conciliatory housewife mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver).
When Pat’s anxiety-riddled buddy, Ronnie (John Ortiz), and his controlling wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles), invite him to their home for dinner, he meets Veronica’s recently widowed, deeply depressed, younger sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who lives in the same suburban Philadelphia neighborhood. Sullen, smart-mouthed, sexually charged Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his estranged wife Nikki (Brea Bee) if, in return, he’ll be her partner in a local ballroom-dancing competition. That endeavor requires long hours of rehearsal, which Pat’s therapist, Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher), thinks might be good for him.
Based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, writer/director David O. Russell – whose credits include “The Fighter,” “Spanking the Monkey” and “Flirting With Disaster” – plumbs the poignant complexity of pathos and farcical humor in his vulnerable characters, evoking indelible performances from his deftly-chosen ensemble. Having built a fan following in broad comedies like “The Hangover” and its sequels, Bradley Cooper expands his range, delivering strength and subtlety. Acclaimed for her feisty turn in “Winter’s Bone,” scoring as Raven/Mystique in “X-Men: First Class” and embodying the action heroine in “Hunger Games,” Jennifer Lawrence is firmly in Oscar contention again, along with Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”) in supporting roles.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Silver Linings Playbook” is an unlikely, engaging 8, a cheerfully enjoyable crowd-pleaser.