Silver Linings Playbook is a sophisticated, Oscar-friendly 'rom com', much like Lost in Translation and Before Sunset. It is the sort of film that is designed to challenge actors and has already garnered critical-acclaim by being a hit at the Toronto Film Festival and bagging some early Golden Globe nominations.
The story brings together Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), both suffering from mental health issues. Pat has bipolar disorder and suffers from frequent bouts of rage, whilst Tiffany is a grieving widow who has now resorted to borderline nymphomania. The two meet and help each other overcome their issues, mostly through rehearsals for an upcoming dance competition.
This is a film driven by great writing - courtesy of director-screenwriter David O Russell - and great characters brought to life by strong performances. It is refreshing to see Bradley Cooper in this sort of role, pushing himself as an actor whilst still drawing upon his superb comic timing. He excels alongside Jennifer Lawrence, who makes a welcome return to festival film-making following her recent stint in mainstream action films. Both deserve their Golden Globe nominations and have more than earned some Academy recognition.
The supporting players are just as captivating, with a great turn from Robert de Niro as Pat's father, hooked on football and dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. De Niro works well with Cooper - both previously starred opposite each other in Limitless - and their scenes vary from tender to hilarious.
Chris Tucker also shows up, possibly in an attempt to reinvent himself for an indie audience. You may be apprehensive when you see his name on the opening credits - the Rush Hour guy?! - but he comfortably blends into the tone of the film, dialling down his usual loud-mouth humour... but not too much. He steals a lot of scenes as Danny, Pat's friend from the mental health facility.
It may not become an instant classic like Lost in Translation. It lacks an iconic romantic backdrop and Russell's inclusion of a formulaic dance competition leads to a very familiar finale. But in a month bloated with 3-D, big-budget fare, Silver Linings Playbook offers a pleasantly simple piece of film-making: emotive performances, understated directing and an uplifting love story.
Silver Linings Playbook is cinematic gold.