Director David O. Russell is still doing penance for I Heart Huckabees, a wonderfully nutty 2004 passion project exploring the desperate search for meaning within corporate America. Silver Linings Playbook feels more personal than The Fighter, his last feature, but it also feels like the movie version of a brilliant but unbalanced mind on too many edge-sanding meds. Released from the psych hospital where he was sent after a marriage-ending manic fit, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back into his childhood home. Cooper spits out such lines in an unmodulated, rapid-fire assault, his eyes wide and shining. Russell trusts us to draw on, like, every movie we've ever seen to recognize this is what the fearlessness of the mad looks and sounds like; the twist is that Pat's parents-- superstitious amateur bookie Pat Senior (Robert De Niro) and the sweetly overbearing Dolores (Jacki Weaver)-- speak the same way. The scenes in the Solitano home are a cacophony of mile-a-minute monotone. They’re the best, most alive parts of the movie. Like many assholes, Pat brands himself a "truth teller"; he is, of course, the only person who can’t see the truth about himself, which is that he’s incapable of empathy. It comes as no surprise that the vehicle for this transformation is a slow-building romance with a bruised young widow played with feisty authenticity by Jennifer Lawrence. Manic as it might be stylistically, Silver Linings Playbook maintains too even of an emotional keel. It's a film about the alienated that makes sure to alienate no one, a movie depicting wild mood extremes that never rises or falls above a dull hum of diversion. Russell has made a great movie about American malaise; this isn't it.
David O. RussellJennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, Taylor Schilling, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Anupam Kher, Jacki WeaverMatthew Quick, David O. RussellDonna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan GordonThe Weinstein Company