Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence explore the ups and downs of mental illness, medication and football in this quirky romance. Throw in Robert De Niro with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it’s easy to find the silver lining in this movie.
4.5 Stars: Perfect for anyone who’s ever struggled to keep it together
Pat (Bradley Cooper) is serving out an eight-month sentence in a mental institution for severely beating the man he caught in the shower with his wife, Nikki, who now has a restraining order against her husband. When Pat is released into his parents’ care, he wants to rebuild his life, and that includes getting his wife back. But can he really do it without taking his medication? Pat seems to think so.
Pat has been bipolar most of his life, but until now, he has been undiagnosed. His mother, Delores (Jacki Weaver), urges him to take his meds, but Pat claims they make him dull and listless.
Pat’s father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), has his own challenges — he’s living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He’s also a bookie who obsesses over the Philadelphia Eagles, clinging to every superstition he’s collected over the years, even thinking that the angle at which the remote controls are placed will have true impact on whether or not the football team wins. Matriarch Delores emerges as the unsung saint in this movie.
But without his meds, Pat Jr. can’t quite keep it together, and when he wakes up his parents in the middle of the night to aggressively bemoan Hemingway’s failure to give a happy ending to A Farewell to Arms, his parents have had enough — he’s taking the meds, stat!
When Pat’s best friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), invites him over for dinner, Pat is wary of going because Ronnie’s wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles), is still friends with Nikki. But then again, it may be Pat’s perfect opportunity to prove how stable he has become. At least that’s what he hopes, until he meets Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who describes herself as “a crazy slut with a dead husband.”
Over dinner, Pat and Tiffany hilariously face off about which meds they’ve taken, which ones were awful and the burden of depression. They connect, but can it be good for either of them?
When Tiffany propositions Pat for sex, he turns her down. He’s still married and can’t make any mistakes that would keep him from fixing his marriage. Acutely clever, Tiffany offers to help Pat reunite with Nikki, if only he’ll enter an amateur Dancing with the Stars–type contest. He agrees and gives Tiffany a letter to give to Nikki — in clear defiance of the restraining order. But will Tiffany actually give it to Nikki, or is this all a big ruse to allow Tiffany to spend time with Pat?
The best parts of this movie are when Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence spar with each other in that mentally unstable, defensive yet often semicoherent way. As Pat and Tiffany, they each have strong opinions, but they have a lot of trouble communicating despite their clear attraction to each other.
Cooper and Lawrence devour these characters and bring them to life in a painfully comic way. Cooper is hyper and out of control, while Lawrence is manipulative and scheming. I relate to both of these characters more than I’d like to admit, and it’s terribly refreshing to see these people portrayed on the big screen.
Bottom line: This is such a well-acted film, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar came calling multiple times. If you like your romance a little offbeat, then you’ll love Silver Linings Playbook.