I'm not so sure that Pat Solitano should have been released from a Philadelphia mental hospital. But I'm really glad he was.
Pat, as played with equal parts mania and warmth by Bradley Cooper, breaks all the rules (in fact, he has a propensity for breaking a lot of things--windows, furniture, you name it).
But Silver Linings Playbook breaks a lot of rules, too. Where else, for example, are you going to find a great romantic comedy in which the leading characters don't even kiss until the final moments of the film?
In a taut but tart script by writer and director David O. Russell, based on the 2008 bestseller by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook drags us by the shirt collar through the unlikely settings of a mental hospital, a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate party and a ballroom dance competition. I can unequivocally guarantee you that this is the best movie about bipolar disorder, football and dancing that you'll see this year. Oh hell, it's one of the best movies you'll see this year, period.
Pat is a piece of work, searching for a silver lining inside what he calls his playbook: a ridiculous manifesto to win back his estranged wife. For example, Pat's idea of a weight-loss program is long-distance running while wrapped in a garbage bag.
Enter Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the widow of a police officer, or as she puts it: "Yeah, I'm Tommy's crazy whore widow, minus the whore thing sometimes." Tiffany, also struggling with mental illness, encountered a bit of trouble with her job: She slept with everyone--literally everyone--in her workplace. Lawrence is perfectly nuts as Tiffany, who dances through life to her own crazy rhythm.
And rhythm is key to Pat and Tiffany's match made in hell. Somehow, Tiffany recruits Pat to be her partner in a ballroom competition (trust me, it makes perfect sense in the film), while Pat sees the dance-off as a platform from which he can win back his ex-wife.
Meanwhile, Pat's dad is probably the biggest basket case of the lot (he just hasn't been diagnosed yet). Played deliciously by Robert De Niro, Pat Sr. is such an avid Eagles fan that he's been banned by Philadelphia police from attending home games because of his overexuberance (a cogent reminder that the word "fan" is indeed a derivation of fanatic).
Cooper and Lawrence deliver Oscar-caliber performances as volatile partners who hurt more than they ever say, even though they can't seem to stop talking. Ultimately, Silver Linings Playbook reminds us that life--sometimes quite literally--is a dance and requires a bit of choreography. Some of us just take a little longer to learn the moves.