Silver Linings Playbook ★★★★

Bradley Cooper is a man suffering from bipolar disorder and recently released from a mental hospital where he spent eight months after nearly killing his wife's lover. He goes home to live with his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, and tries to put his new life philosophy -- seeing a silver lining in everything -- into effect so he can become a better person and win his wife back. Then he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has personality issues of her own. The two form an odd friendship and he agrees to help her enter a dance competition if she will deliver a letter to his wife.

Cooper and Lawrence are both oddly charming in their roles, despite playing characters who could probably be fairly described as abrasive. The two have great chemistry and I was definitely rooting for their relationship. I loved Lawrence's performance: Tiffany is all over the place, but her behaviour never felt exaggerated or unnatural and we are always aware of the humanity that underlies her emotional outburts. Robert De Niro is also very good as the Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father who doesn't quite know how to handle his son. The scene when Lawrence and De Niro's characters finally meet is just excellent.

The film is an odd mix of things: it's part tale of coping with mental illness, part family dramedy, and (most delightfully) part dance movie. Somehow, it works. Although I found some portions a bit draggy, I was completely drawn in by the end and the climactic dance/football scene (yes!) put a big smile on my face. I understand why this movie won the audience choice award at TIFF this year: it's a crowd-pleaser. It's also got more to it than the typical romantic comedy, with characters who are more than their quirks.

The movie also has a pretty great soundtrack, featuring Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, and The White Stripes. The music is well-suited to the movie and I imagine I'll associate these songs with the scenes they play over from now on -- the sign of a great use of music.