Silver Linings Playbook ***1/2

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“Silver Linings Playbook” is the latest film by David O. Russell. It is a wonderful, screwball, romantic comedy, full of performances that just leap off the screen.

Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, who has bipolar disorder. As the movie opens he is released from a mental health facility in to the care of his parents. He is currently separated from his wife Nikki who also has a restraining order against him. His father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), is out of work and has resorted to bookmaking to earn some extra cash. He is obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles. His mother Dolores, played by Jacki Weaver, has spent many exhaustive year putting up with these men.

Pat eventually meets Tiffany Maxwell played by Jennifer Lawrence. She is a young widow and former sex addict. Pat and Tiffany develop an odd friendship through their shared mental issues. Pat also sees an opportunity to communicate with Nikki. She offers to deliver letters to her for Pat if in return he will become her dance partner in an upcoming dance competition.

Sounds pretty wild when you read it but the film is actually a sharp character study about some very disturbed yet loveable people. Cooper and Lawrence in particular give such magnetic performances. Cooper in particular really breaks out of his type casting here and creates a truly original character. Lawrence reveals a different side of herself as well.

David O. Russell has a real knack for directing actors and getting great performances. His last movie was “The Fighter”, which was a pretty generic sports movie made interesting from its electric characters. Here we have the outlines of what could of been a pretty generic comedy that also rises above it’s material with bizarre performances. This is the best romantic comedy in years.

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