Silver Linings Playbook

I'm going to start this off saying something woefully insensitive, but bear with me before you get all offended or whatever (although given the type of people I'm friends with, I doubt any offense will be taken. Ever. About anything.), I'm going somewhere with it.

Insanity is funny. Mental health issues are funny. Everybody loves to laugh at the nutjob character in the movie, going back to Rain Man, and hell, probably even farther back than that. But here's the flip side to that coin: while mental health issues might be funny, seeing people conquer those issues is heart-warming. But to take that one step beyond, seeing people find happiness without conquering those issues but instead learning to live with them? Well, that's even more touching.

And that makes Silver Linings Playbook a pretty much perfect movie.

Here's a really brief synopsis of the movie: Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, comes home after a brief court-mandated stay in a mental hospital because he flew into a rage when he came home one day and found another man going down on his wife in the shower and beat the crap out of the guy. It turns out Pat is bi-polar. Despite there being a restraining order against him, he spends the whole movie thinking everything he does is going to bring him one step closer to getting his wife back. In the course of this, he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, a young woman with issues of her own; her husband died after only three years of marriage and she snapped a little too and turned into a bit of a nymphomaniac, but she's trying to put that behind her. Long story short, Tiffany tells Pat she can get a letter to his wife for him as long as he agrees to be her partner in a dance contest she entered, and he agrees, and hilarious, heart-warming hijinks ensue.

If this sounds to you like a fairly basic plot for a rom-com, well, you're not entirely wrong. It's a variation of a plot we've seen before... boy in love with one girl he can't have meets another girl, blah blah blah... but with the mental issues twist. But there are two differences that elevate Silver Linings Playbook from being a simple cookie-cutter rom-com to possibly being my favorite movie of the year.

The first is the way the material is written and directed. There's a serious to the whole affair that focuses on the drama, on making you think about the situations and the characters and what they go through internally in more than just a romantic sense. The romance, while central, is almost secondary to everything else. And the comedy never comes from where you'd expect it, and it's never appropriate and it's usually awkward... and that makes it all the funnier. There's also more of a focus on family than on romance most of the time, as Pat's relationship with his father, played by good old Robert De Niro, is central to the plot; Pat Sr. is a little touched in the head himself, with a massive case of OCD, and his obsessive faith in both his son and the Philadelphia Eagles drives the plot in some unexpected ways.

The second, bigger way the movie is elevated is the acting. To start with, the whole supporting cast is fantastic, but Bobby D. definitely gets a shout-out for supporting actor, especially for one tear-inducing scene with his son. Likewise, Chris Tucker steals most of the scenes he's in as a friend Pat made in the mental hospital who keeps showing up unexpectedly and hilariously.

As good as the supporting cast is, though, this movie hinges on its stars, and there is nothing disappointing about their performances. Bradley Cooper is possibly the most watchable, charismatic man in Hollywood right now (sorry, Ryan Reynolds; maybe if you stopped banging Blake Lively long enough to make some movies that wouldn't have happened...), and he shines in a role that I thought would be outside his wheelhouse; he's definitely famous for playing the laid-back, wise-cracking, pretty boy, but he displays a depth and soulfulness and vulnerability here that kind of makes you ache for what he's going through the whole time. As good as he is, though, he's upstaged just a little bit by Jennifer Lawrence. And I'm not just saying that because she's probably the hottest actress around right now, both in terms of talent and looks and and I'm not at all saying it because I might be just a little... smitten... with her.

C'mon, can you blame me? I mean, really.

She plays Tiffany as a character that, while not immediately someone you can relate to, is immediately someone you can root for, and, eventually, someone you wish was yours, baggage and all. She's as vulnerable and sympathetic as Pat is, but with more backbone and intelligence and is more well-rounded, despite the fact that his character is at least a decade older than her, if not more. And it isn't just the level of talent that Cooper and Lawrence bring that makes their performances shine, it's the chemistry between them; whether they're trading barbs over which one of them is crazier than the other, or just looking at each other across a dance floor, the chemistry is palpable, and their performances completely encompass you.

In short (he said ironically, having already blathered on much longer than he intended), Silver Linings Playbook is a pretty damn amazing movie. It'll make you laugh, it'll touch your heart, and it just might make you think about your outlook on life a bit. I can't recommend enough that you see it. Immediately. In fact, I can't wait to see it again. I'll leave you with that, and with one parting word, the word that becomes Pat's catchphrase for his outlook on life when he gets out of the hospital: