Sometimes Hollywood gets it right, and they certainly did with Silver Linings Playbook.  This movie elegantly combines drama, comedy, and romance with a realistic treatment of mental illness.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) just got released from a Baltimore mental institution in Baltimore, and he's living at home with his parents Pat Senior (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki Waver).  Pat is seeing his therapist, using motivational techniques ("excelsior!"), getting in shape, and trying to see the silver lining in everything.  Unfortunately, he's still not taking his medicine, he's still easily angered, and he's convinved that he can restart his marriage happily with Nikki -- even though her affair is what triggered his breakdown and she since got a restraining order against him.

Things change, maybe, when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a friend of a friend.  Tiffany has her own share of issues and problems, from her husband's recent death to her constant abrasiveness to a bout of workplace nymphomania.  Tiffany keeps bumping into Pat when he's out jogging, and eventually she makes him an offer: She'll get a letter to Nikki -- if Pat agrees to be her dance partner in an upcoming competition.  There's also Pat Senior's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles, his job as a bookie, and his dream of opening a restaurant; Pat's friend Ronnie (John Ortiz), who seems to a great upwardly mobile life with a great house, big job, and beautiful wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) -- but who feels tremendous pressure and stress; and for comic relief there's Danny (Chris Tucker), a buddy of Pat's from the institute who keeps showing up and getting taken back to the institute.

Silver Linings Playbook works thanks to a variety of factors.  The cast is terrific all around.  It's easy to see why Jennifer Lawrence: She makes Tiffany confrontational, vulnerable, appealing, off-putting, and with possibly as many issues as Pat has.  Bradley Cooper shines as Pat, who's "undiagnosed bipolar disorder" is thoroughly believable, as his character's laser-like focus on restoring his marriage is self-delusional and leading him to ignore Tiffany (he leaves a dinner with her early to write a letter to his ex-wife).  And the supporting cast does very well too.

What may distinguish this movie from so many others is its quite realistic treatment of mental illness -- and its frequency.  While Pat may be the only one who was in a mental institution, mental problems abound.  Pat Sr. has OCD, believed his beloved Eagles win or lose based on who's watching the game and where they sit, and was banned from Eagles games for attacking a fan.  Tiffany seems like she needs help as much as anyone else, and even Ronnie --who is upwardly mobile, bragging about having an iPod dock in every room -- stresses out and has a unique way of releasing his anger and frustration.  It's all believable, accurate, and quite a revelation for a movie to tackle this sort of subject without either making it comic or quirky.

Silver Linings Playbook does take a slightly more traditional path with its happy ending (revolving around a parlay bet), but it's a small bit of cliche in a movie that achieves so much.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

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