Bradley Cooper plays a mentally ill teacher opposite Jennifer Lawrence in “The Silver Linings Playbook”

Film Critic

It is hard to imagine the debonair Bradley Cooper as a victim of mental illness who has lost his home, wife and job and ended up in a mental institution.

However, “The Silver Linings Playbook” (based on a book of the same name by Matthew Quick) puts Cooper in such a position as Pat Solitano, who repeats a mantra of positivity and states he will get back together with his ex-wife.

Pat returns to live with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), and is introduced to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a troubled widow, who he agrees to enter a dance contest with in exchange for a favor. 

Cooper’s performance is exceptional. It is uncomfortably good. His oddness and obsessiveness feel extremely real, and are even at moments hard to watch. His delivery is spot-on. His road to recovery feels natural, and though the crazy never fully fades away, his personal brand of charm does click on.

Lawrence’s performance is wildfire, volatile and entrancing. She does equally as well as Cooper with her role. She gives Tiffany a fierceness and slight vulnerability that draws the audience in, wondering what goes on in her head. As a duo they are solid and give their characters a realness that is very rare in film.

De Niro is excellent as Pat Sr., who himself is a little bit off and extremely superstitious. Everyone is trying hard to understand and help Pat Jr., and right along with them the audience tries to understand him as well. 

The film draws you in to the tumultuous world of those struggling with their mental illness, trying to adapt to a world that sometimes does not understand the overwhelming feelings accompanying loss.

It raises important questions as to how people dealing with mental illness should be treated and makes an excellent point that these people need respect. 

“The Silver Linings Playbook” brings up the issue of mental illness and how it affects those around them with poise. It is an emotional dust devil, and your eyes will water up.

This dark comedy offers up some truly dismal moments, but it is always quick to counter with little pick-me-ups and offers some great laughs.

Even though spirits do get picked up, the film can be emotionally tolling as arguing scenes are extremely natural.

Lawrence shows she just may be the next Meryl Streep. She is electrifying and unstable and beautifully so.

Award season is right around the corner and this performance is a strong bid for Lawerence. When she is on screen she overwhelms Cooper, which is no easy task, but she stands out in this role.