I suppose the phrase “serious romantic comedy” sounds like a paradox. But that’s exactly what “Silver Linings Playbook” is: an intelligent, edgy dark comedy with romance at its core. And believe it or not, the idea of struggling with mental illness is one of its themes.
Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”) stars as Pat Solitano, a man who has been hospitalized for bipolar disorder. With the help of medications and counseling, he is trying to remain on an even keel with the help of his exasperated but loving parents (Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom,” and Robert DeNiro).
Pat tries his best to cope with everyday trials and adjust to life without his wife Nikki (Brea Bee), who has taken out a restraining order on him. When he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), he doesn’t see her as a romantic interest: He sees her as a way to communicate with his wife, despite the presence of the restraining order. He asks Tiffany to deliver a letter he has written, and she agrees.
Meanwhile, Tiffany and Pat spar. She wants a favor from him, too. Tiffany has entered a dance contest (think “Dancing With the Stars”) and needs someone to not only work on her routines with her, but also to appear as her partner during the live, and very public, competition. Pat really doesn’t want to help her out, but he agrees to do so out of desperation.
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Tiffany struggles with mental issues as well. There’s a hilarious scene in she and Pat discuss the side effects of various medications. Meanwhile, Pat’s parents try their hardest to work things out with their son. The only way that Pat’s father knows how to communicate with him is to watch Philadelphia Eagles football games, which Pat could not care less about. Pat’s mother, in the meantime, takes every opportunity to encourage and soothe her troubled son.
The chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence is palpable, and that is part of the reason why the movie works so well. Additionally, this is not a screenplay about wealthy people and their problems; rather, it focuses on middle-class, believable characters with everyday lives, which helps the audience relate to them easily.
I think the phrase “life-affirming” is overused, but I’m using it to describe this show that’s unique, intelligent and far above the quality of the average forgettable romantic comedy. This is one you will remember.