I've been a fan of director David O. Russell since his 1994 film Spanking the Monkey, though I haven't seen all of his movies. I loved his 1999 Iraq war film Three Kings, and I was excited that he had a new one. Of course, Silver Linings Playbook came with a lot of buzz and most of it not for him but for his stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and the novel of the same name on which it's based. I haven't read the book and can't speak to how well it was adapted, but I will say that it's a very David O. Russell film about dysfunctional families and dysfunctional love.
The story centers around a man named Pat Solitano (Cooper), a former teacher who was hospitalized for bipolar illness following a violent physical attack on a man who was having an affair with Pat's wife. But as the story opens he's been released and is moving back in with his parents until he can take care of himself again. He's still obsessed with his wife Nikki, still thinks he can get her back, and he's not quite okay- not just yet. He refuses his medication and has episodes of instability; he also meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a widow with issues of her own, and the two form a tentative and slow-moving relationship of sorts. Then he asks her for a favor, and she accepts, but there are conditions.
I really enjoyed this movie. The actors were great- I mean, I'm no acting critic, but I thought everyone was wonderful. I think I'm a bona fide fan of Jennifer Lawrence now, and I didn't find Bradley Cooper to be annoying at all. I thought the portrayal of mental illness was realistic and sensitive, and I thought the way Russell portrays Pat's family was pretty realistic as well. Echoes of his illness show up both in his brother and father, while his mother copes as best she can to both direct the three men and keep out of the line of fire too. She was a great character, even if she didn't have the flashy role that Lawrence had. Pat's therapist is hysterical too. Pat's evolution is gradual and rang true for me.
I'd recommend Silver Linings Playbook to adult audiences looking for an intelligent and funny look at tragedy.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive tickets to the film or any compensation for the review.