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Movie Review: 'Playbook' Offbeat, Charming

David O. Russell returns to his romantic-comedy roots with "Silver Linings Playbook" but doesn't ignore the serious issue of mental illness.

Two years after David O. Russell’s The Fighter, the infamously controversial filmmaker is back with his latest blend of crappy people and hearts of gold.

Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy, which is perfect for the holiday season and families looking for entertainment. But it also has characters with mental issues, which is perfect for Oscar season. Taking a break from Mark Wahlberg, Russell cast endearing, popular actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as his protagonists.

After a stay in a mental institution for anger issues and being diagnosed as bipolar, Patrick (Cooper) moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) when he discovers his wife has left him. Things at home don’t go too well, either: Pat’s dad also has a bad temper and OCD, causing conflict. Soon an old friend of Pat’s sets him up on a date with his wife’s sister Tiffany (Lawrence), who also has a bad attitude and suffered depression after her husband’s death. It’s a match made in therapy; Pat is in denial about the end of his marriage and asks Tiffany to help him win his wife back.

Chris Tucker and Julia Stiles co-star as Pat’s rehab pal and Tiffany’s sister.

Russell has experimented with his share of genres the last two decades, from the romantic comedy Flirting with Disaster (1996) to the war satire Three Kings (1999) to the quirky ensemble piece I Heart Huckabees (2004) to the boxing drama The Fighter (2010). Now he steps back to his romcom roots with his adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel Silver Linings Playbook.

Playbook manages to be light and heartfelt while dealing with serious subjects like mental illness. Cooper, known primarily for comedies like Wedding Crashers (2004) and The Hangover (2009), disappears into Pat and delivers as the lead of a talented cast. Many already think Lawrence should receive an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of aggressive, loudmouthed Tiffany, and it’s easy to see why. She is as amusing and cute as she is frustrated and bitchy.

Silver Linings Playbook is charmingly offbeat in a way few filmmakers could succeed at.

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