Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a supposedly likable everyman suffering from bipolar disorder. Released from a psychiatric hospital into the custody of his parents (Jackie Weaver and Robert De Niro, whose superstitious Pat Sr. is almost as crazy as his son), Pat is completely manic, and singularly obsessed with reconciling with his wife, whose lover he had beaten to a pulp during one of his outbursts.
For reasons never convincingly explained, Pat's buddy's snobby wife (Julia Stiles) hooks him up with her sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is dealing with her own severe emotional issues after the death of her husband. What a great idea!
This sounds like doom and gloom, but Silver Linings Playbook has a surprisingly light tone – not finding humor in mental illness, per se, but not treating it like a permanent or physical thing, either. I don't know enough about what people like Pat and Tiffany go through in real life, but at least the film doesn't shy away from the likelihood that they must annoy the hell out of their friends and loved ones with their fits and rages.
As for Silver Linings itself, I have to say I was kind of exhausted by Cooper's endless rants, but Lawrence – who's made up to look and talk like a younger, more adorable Juliette Lewis – is fine, and if you can endure the first hour of shouting and arguing, you'll be treated to a rousing second half where the drama finally kicks in, leading to a rich third act.
I don't want to give anything away here (though it's not like you ever doubt that Pat and Tiffany will wind up together), but I did find the ending extremely tidy. It satisfies for a second, but leaves a phony aftertaste behind, as if these characters' psychiatric issues can be easily taken care of, if only they just get over themselves. Pat and Tiffany have a long way to go before they can be functional again, but the film doesn't touch on that. It's as if their craziness is a MacGuffin, a mere jumping-off point for another predictable romantic comedy.