Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) is taken by his mother (Jacki Weaver) from a psychological unit in which he has spent several months following a violent episode involving his wife and her lover.
Pat has decided unilaterally to come off the meds, get himself some silver linings and re-insert himself into mainstream life as a substitute teacher and loving husband. For the time being, however, he’s stuck at home with an anxious mum and a football-obsessed OCD father (de Niro). Dad stockpiles rituals to be observed when the Philadelphia Eagles play: Pat’s own issues are just a bigger chip off the old block. At dinner with friends, Pat meets Tiffany (Lawrence), who’s trying to dispel her post-bereavement nympho-mania with self-esteem projects.
She promises to help him get back his wife if he’ll step out with her at an upcoming dance contest. The potential inherent in this zany story, recognized by Sydney Pollack and Harvey Weinstein when they bought the film rights, plays out to good effect in the movie’s first 40 minutes with what might be a breakout performance from a credibly manic Cooper and solid backup from Weaver and de Niro as his well-meaning parents.
Paradoxically, it’s when Pat agrees to go back on the pills that the movie goes slightly off the rails. Sacrificing poignancy to pace, director David O. Russell lays on the perkiness as Cooper and Lawrence slither around each other in sweats. They’re hot, for sure, but having released the genie of mental instability with all its foibles and fears, the film’s awkward rush towards a happy end jeopardises the delicate balance of tragedy and comedy that makes its first half memorable.
Silver Linings Playbook | Directed by David O. Russell (USA 2012), with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Chris Tucker. Starts January 3