According to some movies, being mentally ill is a great way to find love. Recent examples range from the rom-com Kind of a Funny Story to the rom-thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. They may trivialize the subject, but who wants to watch two hours of someone paralyzed by psychic agony?
As the title suggests, David O. Russell's adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel also looks on the bright side. And it bristles with quirky authenticity. From Spanking the Monkey to The Fighter, Russell observes the troubled soul within the environment that causes most of the damage — the family — which he details down to the dinner table spats and the ugly wallpaper in the living room.
Home is where Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) finds himself once again. He has just been sprung by his mother (Jacki Weaver ) from the psychiatric institution where he spent eight months after nearly beating his wife's lover to death. In the meantime he has lost his house and job as well as his wife and his mind, and so he moves into the blue-collar Philadelphia digs he grew up in. With Robert De Niro playing the volatile Pat Sr., it's kind of like All in the Family, except the laughs sometimes degenerate into violence.
Then Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) enters Pat's life. She's dealing with depression over her husband's death by sleeping with everyone in the neighborhood. Pat declines her favors at first, but genre expectations decree that opposites attract and that these two should find their psychoses mutually compatible. To his credit, Russell keeps the outcome interesting; he knows that every silver lining has a cloud.