January 24, 2013

'Silver Linings' maintains risky balance between humor, bad taste


---- — Mental illness is ordinarily no laughing matter, but “Silver Linings Playbook” is no ordinary film.

Directed by David O. Russell (“The Fighter”), “Silver Linings Playbook” features multidimensional characters in an unconventional story and maintains a risky balance between humor and bad taste.

The film has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and all the acting categories, and honestly, it’s hard to quibble with any of the nominations.

Bradley Cooper, best known for the “Hangover” movies, easily gives the best performance of his career as Pat, a former schoolteacher who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and served a court-ordered eight-month stint in a mental-health facility after a violent incident.

He moves back home to his loving but dysfunctional family with a positive attitude, a strategy to get his wife back — despite a restraining order — and absolutely no intention of taking his medication.

Cooper is sweet and energetic, leading his obsessed character through a wild array of emotions, often in the same conversation.

The film really takes off when he is introduced to Tiffany, a young widow with similar mental issues. Tiffany might be able to help Pat reach his wife — but first, she needs an odd favor.

Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games”) sparkles in a Golden Globe-winning turn as Tiffany, her first true grown-up role. Tiffany is sad, sharp and sassy, and Lawrence’s chemistry with Cooper is perfect. Together, the two could have carried a film alone, but “Silver Linings Playbook” offers a number of subplots to supplement them.

Robert De Niro tackles one of his best roles in years — worlds better than any Fockers film — as Pat’s superstitious, obsessive-compulsive, Philadelphia Eagles-loving father.

Jacki Weaver, so good as a much more dangerous matriarch in “Animal Kingdom,” is excellent as Pat’s mom, the woman who works so hard to keep her family from falling apart.

The film even manages to give Chris Tucker a role in which he’s not annoying; in fact he’s rather amusing as Pat’s psychiatric ward buddy, Danny.

“Silver Linings Playbook” takes chances, and most of them payoff. It’s one of the year’s best movies.

Rental recommendation: “A Beautiful Mind” is another excellent film centered around mental illness. Grade: A-

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"Silver Linings Playbook"

Grade: A Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Rated: R (for language and some sexual content/nudity)

Running time: 122 minutes