Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell knows his way around dysfunction and does that peculiar variety we find in families (witness The Fighter, Spank the Monkey) especially well. His Oscar contending Silver Linings Playbook plumbs the depths of modern day mental illness (bi-polar and other affective disorders) with remarkable insight and humor. It takes a unique vision to be able to see the light side of such personal pain. Russell, who also wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Matthew Quick, tells the story of a manic-depressive young Philadelphia man named Pat (an outstanding Bradley Cooper) who was institutionalized after beating his wife's lover nearly to death. His mother (Jacki Weaver) signs him out of the hospital despite warnings from physicians that Pat is not quite ready. His father, Pat Sr., (Robert De Niro) who has his own mental health issues, is skeptical but quickly comes to feel his son's new-found optimism might come in handy as Pat Sr. makes book on his beloved Eagles. Pat Jr. is less interested in his father's enterprise than he is in getting back with his estranged wife, Nikki, who everybody says has moved on. But Pat does not heed the warnings. In the course of moving closer and closer to an encounter with his wife, Pat meets another damaged party, Tiffany (a wonderfully engaging Jennifer Lawrence), who has been on a promiscuous binge since her cop husband was killed three years before. She convinces him that he could win Nikki back if he enters a dance competition with her, proving he is "focused, collaborative and disciplined." Cooper and Lawrence have terrific chemistry and rhythm in roles that require that they pounce all over each other -- verbally, emotionally, physically. It's enormously entertaining to watch them. The film itself is thought-provoking and affirming although some some scenes are quite difficult to watch. Highly Recommended but not for children or those disturbed by raw familial aggression.