It’s autumn in Philadelphia, and Mom picks up Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) from a mental hospital — he was checked in after a breakdown he had when he caught his wife cheating. As we follow Pat’s tough but at times humorous journey, it’s clear that this is a formulaic romance. It brings nothing new to the genre and is at times predictable — but that’s not to say it isn’t superbly acted or genuinely heartwarming.
Pat, under a restraining order from his estranged and high–cheekboned wife Nikki, moves back in with his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro) and meets the irritable and alluring Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Her husband of three years has recently died, which is less than believable — we don’t know how old Tiffany is supposed to be, but she looks no older than 21. Pat agrees to be Tiffany’s partner in a dance competition in exchange for her getting letters to Nikki, and so begins an unconventional yet clichéd courtship, complete with a choreographed dance finale that is ridiculous and adorable.
“Silver Linings Playbook,” directed and written by David O. Russell and based on a Matthew Quick novel, is worth seeing because of the admirable acting. While they seem to be trying too hard at times, Cooper and Lawrence are better than ever — after all, Lawrence doesn’t need to be a Best Actress frontrunner. De Niro is endlessly watchable as an obsessive–compulsive Eagles fan who’s banned from the stadium, but Chris Tucker provides nothing more than cheap comic relief and token diversity in a less–than–believable role as a hospital escapee. And Julia Stiles, as Tiffany’s sister, has only a trivial cameo.
We’ve seen romances that deal with mental illness and its effect on families, and “Silver Linings Playbook” unfortunately doesn’t leave us with anything new. While (hopefully) not Best Picture caliber, the story of the recovery of a man in denial, who happens to be as enchanting as Cooper, is easy to fall for.