Most big movies are so easily classifiable that something like “Silver Linings Playbook” arrives with a particularly welcome splash. I guess this is a screwball comedy, but with a few shocks and surprises included along the way.
In the opening minutes we meet Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), a young guy who has spent eight months in a psychiatric hospital after a violent incident that followed his discovery of his wife’s extramarital affair.
Seriously, this is a comedy.
Back home in Philly, Pat is convinced he’s going to reunite with the ex. Instead of accepting the bad news to the contrary, he looks for the silver linings.
Meanwhile, Pat’s father (Robert De Niro, in good shape) lays huge bets on Eagles games while his mother (Jacki Weaver, the Oscar nominee from “Animal Kingdom”) makes the same game-day snacks she’s been making for decades.
And then there’s this woman, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). She’s recently widowed, has a couple of scandals in her past and needs a partner for a dance contest she has entered.
We all know that romance is going to percolate between Pat and Tiffany, but the movie takes such a wonderfully weird (yet occasionally serious and troubling) path to this romance, it never lets you get comfortable in your seat. Which is a good thing, in this case.
Director-writer David O. Russell might be best known for “The Fighter,” but you should cast back to his hilarious 1996 comedy “Flirting with Disaster” to get the feel of this one. “Silver Linings Playbook” has a nonstop rhythm, good running gags and a happy allegiance with the misfits of the world.
It also (like “Flirting”) understands the importance of supporting roles. For one thing, this movie has a part for the elusive Chris Tucker, who became a superstar off the “Rush Hour” movies and hasn’t been seen in anything else in the past 15 years. He’s not in this film all that much, but he’s funny when he is.
There are also good things from Julia Stiles and John Ortiz as Pat’s friends, and Paul Herman as — well, he’s a bookie or a gambler or something, and he’s always hanging around with Pat’s father, and he has a curious manner that fits the rest of the movie.
If a movie comes up with a half-dozen funny scenes, that’s usually a success. “Silver Linings Playbook” has a half-dozen scenes that are positively giddy, especially whenever Lawrence and Cooper begin dancing together (the dance contest itself is a hoot and a half).
With its realistic setting, oddball humor and intentionally uncomfortable moments, this movie looks like the recipe Russell’s movies have been aiming at. It’s peculiar, to be sure, but also peculiarly winning.
“Silver Linings Playbook” (3½ stars)
A winning comedy with oddball characters, an unlikely subject, and some intentionally uncomfortable moments. Bradley Cooper plays a recently released psychiatric patient who bonds with a depressed woman (Jennifer Lawrence) when he returns home to Philly, a situation that leads to some downright giddy sequences. With Robert De Niro.
Rated: R for language, violence, subject matter.
Showing: Oak Tree.