If you are a devoted fan of a New York football team, your life is more than likely a series of highs and lows. Think the Jets. Just when you think your team has got it together, they fumble, turn the ball over and lose momentum. But you come back the next week, convinced they will get it right. And when they do, it is so worth it.
In “Silver Linings Playbook,” the new comedy by director David O. Russell, the characters live for the highs of tomorrow and for the Philadelphia Eagles to win. In between though, there are setbacks and mood swings. Many of these ups and downs are by the lead character, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper), who at times has violent outbursts coupled with emotional tension. You wait in hope that Pat overcomes his bipolar tendencies.
Watching the family dynamics, it becomes evident that much of Pat’s affliction stems from his father, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro). A dedicated, superstitious Eagles fan, Pat Sr. has been banned from attending the stadium games for participating in too many fights. He theorizes that if the Eagles lose, it is because his son is not sitting at home with him to watch the game.
The story begins when Pat’s mom, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), picks him up from his eight-month stay at a mental hospital for violently attacking, and almost killing, the man he caught in the shower with his wife. Living in his parent’s home, he declares that his shot at life’s silver lining is to get his wife back, even though she has a restraining order on him.
In a fix-up, Pat’s best friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) invites him over to dinner, where his wife (Julia Stiles) invites her recently widowed younger sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) to join them. While the evening doesn’t make it through the salad course without both Pat and Tiffany leaving, it does lead to a union that bonds them together.
Tiffany recently lost the husband she loved to a tragic accident and afterwards, her job. Even with her issues, she seems to be well focused.
Tiffany convinces Pat that she can help him by getting a letter to Pat’s former wife on the condition that he performs a dance routine with her in a local competition. She also convinces Pat’s father that the key to the Eagles winning is based on his son being with her during the games. It all comes together when the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys on the same day as the dance competition.
Cooper’s Pat is the guy you root for, wondering if he will ever get it together enough to realize what is good for him. DeNiro plays to his character’s obsession with likeable seriousness. You want the Eagles to win and his son to be happy for this man’s sake.
Lawrence’s Tiffany is the character you most want to see in each scene. She offers sensibility and focus in difficult moments. When she succumbs to disappointment, however, it is Cooper and DeNiro that reel her back.
It is a well-cast crew that may not always get along, but they get through their highs and lows together.