‘Silver Linings Playbook’ golden

David O. Russell knows how to properly use actors. He’s an excellent director, but mind you, he’s had a history of verbal and physical disputes with them. An audience should always know that when sitting down for a Russell film you’ll witness transcendent performances. Russell transforms Hollywood stars such as Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence into believable human characters that might live down the street.

The nature of the film being within a non-star human reality makes “Silver Linings Playbook” an exceptional experience that dramatically conveys comedy and comically conveys drama. The film might catch audiences off guard, because it is far more than a romantic comedy. This film explores mental illness, relationships, the nature of our reality and our ability to find the positivity in life.

Pat Solitano Jr. (Cooper) gets out of a mental hospital and moves in with his parents (De Niro and Jacki Weaver), attempting to rekindle his marriage with his ex-wife. Pat Jr.’s life is flipped when he encounters Tiffany, a neurotic young widow.

Cooper, with Russell’s direction, expertly takes us into the mind of a delusional man who is haunted by a traumatic event earlier in his life involving his wife. Cooper easily gains sympathy in his situation as Pat, but when more information is revealed in visual flashes the audience realizes that Pat is not entirely empathetic.

Russell explores the mind of Pat in a curious way by traveling through his memories at lightning speed. Viewers have to constantly pay attention to Russell’s examination of both family dynamic and mental illness. Cooper is eccentric, swift in thought, and takes action in a split second. Some have questioned the accuracy of Russell and Cooper’s presentation of bipolar disorder, but knowing the disorder firsthand I think “Silver Linings Playbook” is an absolutely fascinating exploration of a disease that affects many individuals.

Cooper kills it in his performance, but those who knock it clear out of the park are De Niro and Lawrence. De Niro is absolutely electric as Pat’s father, who is both humorous in natural human interaction, but portrays familial drama perfectly when Pat challenges his father. De Niro will nearly bring you to tears with both a human performance and a sense of desperation when Pat won’t listen, because he’s so set in his ways. The breaking point for De Niro’s character comes when Pat overreacts during a search for his wedding video and accidentally knocks his mother over. Pat Sr. leaps on top of Pat Jr. and attacks his son, but more than anything he’s attacking the illness, not his grown boy.

The best scenes in the film come when Cooper and Lawrence interact with one another.

Whether they’re reminiscing about their different medications or Pat’s backtracking on socially unacceptable questions, each interaction is more fascinating than the next. The relationship between this older man and younger woman might make some viewers uncomfortable, but the film argues that love is bigger than an age difference. Love is when two people counter-balance one another and make them feel welcome and at home, no matter if home is a little bit crazy.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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