D David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" has fallen under the radar despite the star power of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
The film follows two damaged characters. Pat is a bipolar teacher who has been recently released from a mental hospital. Tiffany is a young widow dealing with her grief by sleeping with just about anyone.
Right here, we already know not to expect a typical romantic comedy.
Russell isn't one to craft conventional stories, even when he is playing within the confines of the rom-com. His Desert Storm film "Three Kings" is more heist film than war pic, and "The Fighter" mixes elements of sports films with documentary.
"Silver Linings Playbook," despite what the trailer suggests, is no different.
The film begins when Pat is being picked up from the hospital by his mother Dolores (Aussie Jacki Weaver). He trades in the alienation of the hospital for the imprisonment of his parents' home. His father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), is a Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed bookie. Both Weaver and De Niro are given roles worthy of their talents. Dolores is the only sane one in the bunch, and Pat Sr., so consumed by football, can only communicate in varying degrees of the sport. Pat Sr. was banned from Eagles stadium for his violent tantrums. Years later, Pat Jr. is sent to the mental ward for going postal on his wife's lover.
Blindly believing that he can win back his cheating wife, Pat continues to remain faithful to her.
Pat meets Tiffany at a dinner party; the two have been set up.
The meal is a disaster, but Tiffany and Pat bond over some brutally honest table conversation.
She offers him a one-night stand; he offers a deal: Deliver a letter to his ex-wife and he'll enter a dance contest with her.
It's corny, but somehow it works.
This could very well be the best performance of Cooper's career. But it's Lawrence who is a miracle. Known more for "Hunger Games" than for her breakout Oscar-nominated performance in "Winter's Bone," she is sexy, sassy, vulnerable and crass all at once. They are a match made in screwed-up heaven.