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'Silver Linings Playbook' is Golden

Four stars glow in this 5-star romantic comedy-drama

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Director: David O. Russell
Rating R. Running Time: 2 hours
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver

Not since All in the Family has a current-day family-centered drama/comedy been so effective. Like its television predecessor, Silver Linings Playbook offers fascinating, complicated characters — all of them — whose interplay is utterly compelling.

Director David O. Russell, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2010 filmThe Fighter, based Silver Linings Playbook on a novel by Matthew Quick. He has said that he took on the project because it was personal: his teenage son has had mental health issues. The story centers on main character Pat Solitano (played by Bradley Cooper of The Hangover), a 20-something man with bipolar disorder and anger issues who has lost his job, his home and his wife after an assault on a man with whom his wife was having an affair.

He has just emerged from a mental institution, where he spent several months as a result of a plea bargain. Pat moves back home with his parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores (a perfectly cast pair in Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, who was nominated for an Oscar for Animal Kingdom), hoping to get back on his feet and to reconnect with his ex-wife, who has a restraining order against him. The Solitanos are a quirky, working-class group, obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles, a team Pat Sr. and his buddies routinely bet more money on than they should.

While this very realistic group of family and friends is busy interacting, Pat meets Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence, the promising up-and-coming star best known for The Hunger Games), a friend's newly widowed sister-in-law who lives in the neighborhood and has problems of her own, including depression. She persuades Pat to compete with her in an annual dance competition, an event she's long dreamed of doing, in exchange for helping Pat reconnect with his ex-wife.

Next page: Complex portrayal of mental health issues feels real. »

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