Silver linings playbook
Direction: David O Russell
Actors: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
He's a former high-school teacher recently discharged from a psychiatric institution where he was treated for bipolar disorder. She's a young widow who's similarly depressed following the death of her cop husband.
Is there any reason for these oddball characters to fall for each other? Not really, but as director David O Russell argues, no matter how messy or fraught with anxieties their lives seem, they might just be right for each other.
The insightful script, adapted by the director from the black-comic novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, makes us care about their relationship as it unfolds. Returning home to live with his parents (Jacki Weaver-Robert De Niro, both brilliant), the mentally fragile 30-something (Cooper, in a career-defining performance) is determined to reunite with his ex-wife, never mind that she's moved on. Never one to give up hope, he's convinced that "if you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining".
Meanwhile, his mercurial new ally (Lawrence) promises to act as a go-between with the estranged spouses. In return, she demands that he become her partner for a dance competition. The rollicking climax conflates the outcome of the ballroom dance-off with a football match on which the family patriarch has bet his life savings.
There are several funny scenes like the one where their son barges into his parents' bedroom in the middle of the night to rant about the tragic ending of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.
Russell convincingly manages a risky blend of humour, sadness and genuine unpredictability. In one of his rare recent film roles, Chris Tucker is in fine fettle as the inmate forever attempting to flee the loony bin. And our own Anupam Kher fetches up in the small but significant role of a somewhat ineffectual therapist.
A comedy-drama with a subversive tone, Silver Linings Playbook is recommended for romantic cinephiles.