Silver Linings Playbook rings true. The film starts off as a chronicle of Pat Solitano's (Bradley Cooper) efforts to reenter the world after an eight month stint in a psychiatric hospital for bipolar disorder. The Philadelphia man moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro, in fine form, and Animal Kingdom's Jacki Weaver), who are supportive of their son but considerably nervous. He's on edge, his behavior is erratic, he's scary.
Writer-director David O. Russell's (The Fighter) screenplay, based on Matthew Quick's novel, finds humor in behavior and situations while maintaining the erratic energy of Pat's character and not minimizing his mental illness. Pat is lovable but he makes us nearly as uneasy as he does his parents.
After a while, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games and Winter's Bone) enters the story. The widow of a policeman, she has her own set of mental issues. Pat and Tiffany meet and slowly the film morphs into a romantic comedy. The conventions of the genre are touched on, but the quirky storyline maintains a sense of the unexpected.
The production works because it feels real. Russell captures the earthy sense of family in much the same way as he did in The Fighter. The movie hums with manic energy. The characters are interesting - Pat with his relentlessness and hyper speeches, Tiffany with her single-mindedness and concerns over how others perceive her, Pat's father and his obsessive-compulsive fan fixation on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Make no mistake. While the film finds humor, lots of humor, in the behaviors of the characters and their interactions with each other, it stays respectful to them as people. I was impressed by the successful transition into romcom turf, the messy, endearing portrait of a family, and the fine performances by the cast. Mostly I was impressed with how Silver Linings Playbook manages to be so entertaining without losing its twitchy energy.