With 2010's “The Fighter,” David O. Russell took a fact-based story of dysfunctional family dynamics and drug addiction, framed it in the conventions of an underdog sports drama and earned an Oscar nomination.
The writer-director makes another play for the gold statuette with “Silver Linings Playbook,” which draws up a character study of mental illness within the safe confines of a romantic comedy.
Films about people with mental illness are notoriously tricky given the fine line between no-holds-barred authenticity and offensive caricature.
Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence exceed expectations — which were mighty lofty in Lawrence's case, considering the 22-year-old has already earned an Oscar nomination — with their often uproarious and frequently heartbreaking portrayal of an emotionally unstable pair.
Based on Matthew Quick's novel, the “Playbook” opens with former teacher Pat Solitano (Cooper) leaving a Baltimore mental hospital after eight months of court-supervised care, which was ordered after he nearly beat his wife's lover to death. Pat's caring, comfort food-cooking mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), brings him home to Philadelphia, where his obsessive-compulsive, sports-fanatic father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro in his best performance in years), quickly becomes convinced that his son's return to Philly is the good luck charm the NFL Eagles need.
Now physically fit, equipped with therapeutic slogans about silver linings and positive attitudes but still refusing to take medication for his bipolar disorder, Pat thinks he is merely optimistic in believing he can win back his estranged wife. In reality, he's delusional and not nearly as well as he insists.
‘Silver Linings Playbook'
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker.
(Language and some sexual content/nudity)