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I realized over the crazy holiday season that I’ve gotten away from one of my favorite things to do – critique movies and TV. A few days ago I FINALLY got out to see Silver Linings Playbook. I mean, it’s only been out since Christmas. This movie is nominated for just about every major award from the Golden Globes to the SAG Awards to the Oscars, with Jennifer Lawrence walking away with the Best Actress award in two of the three. Of course, she’s a major contender at the Oscars and we will find out on February 24th if she beats out Jessica Chastain (nominated for Zero Dark Thirty) for Best Actress.

Now I can finally see what the hype is all about.

Silver Linings Playbook is about Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, and his struggle with managing his bi-polar disorder. Pat is released eight months after a court mandated stint in a mental hospital after an incident with his wife and her lover. He has every intention of rebuilding his former life including his relationship with his estranged wife. All he thinks he needs is positive thinking and exercise – forget the meds.

Enter Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Recently widowed, Tiffany is a mess. She is self-destructive and she’s okay with it. Tiffany pretends she doesn’t care about the world around her, when the truth is that she’s struggling to hang on. It’s only when Tiffany is re-introduced to Pat at a dinner party, that the two find a connection that only they can understand. Their lack of filtered conversation is all too real and almost immediately they understand what will set the other off. As they train for a ballroom competition, Pat learns how to take responsibility for his actions and how to be there for someone else. Something that he had forgotten.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence definitely deserve the award hype that they are receiving. I’ve seen several of Cooper’s movies over the past three years or so (after the Hangover) and I definitely think this is his strongest performance to date. Cooper’s portrayal of Pat’s intense struggle with himself are incredibly believable. You can really see the “crazy” in his eyes as he falls apart and the desperation for the people in his old life to accept him back into their society. You connect with how much Pat wants to change the way his is, he just doesn’t quite know how.

Likewise, Jennifer Lawrence has most definitely deserved the awards she’s already won (Golden Globe and SAG). A previous nominee for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence has already proven to us that she can act. She is effortless as she convinces us that Tiffany is walking train wreck looking for that special something out there to help reel her in. Thanks to some amazing writing and directing, Lawrence’s “Tiffany” is a real woman who I know I can definitely relate too. Who hasn’t experienced moments of pure desperation that turn into horrible, regretful decisions?

What enhances the story are the amazing supporting characters. Pat’s father, played by Robert DeNiro, clearly has his own mental health issues. DeNiro’s performance is the best he’s given in years. He embraces the obsessive compulsive disorder of his character and creates a man struggling with his own mental eccentricities as well as finding a way to understand his son’s mental issues. The only way that Pat Sr. knows how to connect with his son is through the superstitions that he believes, if carried out properly, will lead his precious Philadelphia Eagles to victory. One of those superstitions being that Pat is the teams good luck charm.

Meanwhile, Pat’s mother, played by Jacki Weaver, holds the family together soothing her husbands eccentricities and her son’s break downs. Not to mention, Chris Tucker’s role as Pat’s friend from the mental hospital who continuously “escapes” is a bright spot in the cast that adds to the idea that everyone has their own version of “crazy.”

Silver Linings Playbook is an unlikely rom-com about how two people find within themselves and each other how to deal with putting their broken lives back together. It’s a beautifully written piece that exudes raw emotions that connect the audience with what these characters are going through as they find new life after tragedy.

Rating: A

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