Family is a tricky proposition in the world of David O. Russell. Whether the ones we’re born into (Spanking the Monkey or The Fighter), those that raise us (Flirting With Disaster) or the bonds we form along the way (Three Kings), dysfunctions lurk and threaten to stunt his hapless protagonists in their human pursuits.
In Silver Linings Playbook, we get Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a former teacher, newly released from a mental institution after a violent psychotic incident, heading back into the hornet’s nest that he calls home, the South Philly domicile of his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver). Pat Sr., a superstitious bookie who bets on all things Philadelphia, especially the Eagles, knows a thing or two about misplaced and/or misdirected anger; he’s been banned from the stadium after several altercations. And Dolores, well, she’s the loving enabler who holds the family together as best she can. All Pat wants is to prove to his adulterous wife (his discovery of her infidelity triggers his violent outburst) that he’s rehabilitated and ready to be a loving husband again. He hooks up with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a fellow psychologically challenged young woman to make his case for a happy ending.
Russell offers crackling exchanges between Cooper and Lawrence that attack their emotional cores but reveal strengths that everyone near and dear to them assumed were lacking. This Playbook gives us dysfunction and hope that we can believe in. (R) Grade: A