Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Mentally Ill Comedy


“Silver Linings Playbook” is about a handicap not of the body but of the mind.
Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just been released after eight months in a psychiatric facility. A high school English teacher, his melt down has cost him his job, his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) and his house. Pat is picked up by his ever-loving mother Dolores (Jackie Weaver), who takes him back to the Philadelphia home he grew up in.
His father Pat Sr. (Robert Di Niro) isn’t thrilled, but he tries to give his oddball son some space. Pat Jr. went through some kind of 12-step program called Excelsior and now he is a fitness addict, jogging around the neighborhood with his upper torso wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag.
On one of his jogs Pat encounters Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a girl with problems of her own. Tiffany is also recently single (her husband died) and down in the dumps. She is mutually acquainted with Pat’s ex-wife, and when Pat asks her to deliver a letter to Nikki (she has a restraining order against Pat), Tiffany agrees.
In return for that favor, Pat agrees to take a stab at Tiffany’s request for him to be her dance partner in a local competition.
Writer-director David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) has thrown a little of everything into this feel-good comedy. Pat’s family are rabid fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. If you are a partisan, you will love that.
Jennifer Lawrence made her spectacular screen debut at age 19 in “Winter’s Bone” with John Hawkes. Lawrence has an irresistible, vulnerable, yet scrappy appeal that serves her character well.
Bradley Cooper is enormously earnest and naïve as Pat, and therefore quite funny. Di Niro has relaxed a bit as the apoplectic pop, and Jacki Weaver makes the perfect mother lioness. Emotional illness is nothing to laugh at, but “Silver Linings” makes recovery most entertaining.

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