Of all the franchises in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles have the most impassioned fanbase. Wins move the entire city, a loss, particularly at Dallas, could ruin an entire Sunday. Eagles fans' well-being depend on a winning season. The Solitanos are such a family.
Pal Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has no control over the things that come out of his mouth. Everyone is guilty of having their mental filter go on the fritz, but Pat's is permanently stuck on off. He's been working on self-improvement at the clinic he was court-appointed to following a violent conflict between himself, his wife and her lover. His mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) has decided that eight months is long enough and brings Pat back home.
Pat has a game-plan toward getting his life back in order: get in shape, get his old job and get his wife back. Nikki has since moved on and as a gesture of good faith, filed a restraining order against him. Despite what his friends tell him, he is quite happy in his delusions.
In an effort to get Pat readjusted, his buddy invites him to dinner with his wife and her sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).
From their first meeting Tiffany gets Pat, when most people in a room step back from him, she steps forward. Pat is hesitant to ingratiate himself with Tiffany, she's loose with her body and Pat needs to maintain with Nikki that he is above such behavior. Oblivious to Pat, Tiffany has her own problems. Since her husband's death she has been an inconsolable mess, any contact she can get, she takes.
While it is immediately clear to the audience that Tiffany and Pat are kindred spirits, he needs convincing. Tiffany slyly offers a deal: be her dance partner and she will pass along his letters to Nikki, in an effort to convince her to get back together.
With Pat spending so much time at Tiffany's, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro, on a streak after Being Flynn) just wants his namesake to sit alongside him Sunday afternoon and take in a game with his old man. Each passing week, Pat Sr. puts a little more money on each game, with his son as his good luck charm, he can't go wrong.
Bradley Cooper is one of those familiar faces recognized from parts as the sidekick and the aggressive boyfriend, but he never really broke out. With his performance as the at times lucid and at others raging Pat, Cooper has announced that he has taken that step into the next tier of leading men.
David O. Russell has a knack for capturing dysfunctional familial units. His most recent effort, The Fighter, garnered him an Academy Award nod for the first time, but, despite the quirk of brothers Micky and Dicky, the the film was ultimately viewed as a workman effort. Silver Linings however comes right out of the auteur's wheelhouse. Russell adapted and directed the film, adding alterations to the story that ultimately result in a tighter, better film.
The popular knock against Silver Linings Playbook is that the film lacks awareness when it comes to mental illness. That conclusion obfuscates the trying moments that Pat Sr. and Dolores combat with after he comes home from the hospital. Russell's film is more or less about capturing the daily highs and lows of Pat and Tiffany's issues. Not every living moment for a person with an illness is wrenched in agony.
Silver Linings destigmatizes disorders in a way that most films just don't care to. Like the Solitano's home, it invites you in.
***1/2 out of ****