Drawing on his own experience with mental illness, director David O. Russell's latest buzz film - replete with eight Oscar nominations - straddles a fine line between farce and kitchen-sink drama before settling into a groove that gets under one's skin.
As Pat Solitano, a former teacher battling bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, Bradley Cooper jumps through a precarious series of hoops in his quest for stability. Pat jnr has been in care for eight months after he lost it when he found his wife taking a shower with a colleague.
Released home to his Italian-American parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver), Pat jnr is soon drawn to the similarly troubled Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose past is almost as chequered as his.
Much has been made of the attention Russell brings to a once-taboo subject. He has an 18-year-old son who's battled mental illness, while author Matthew Quick's original tale was also inspired by firsthand experience with such issues.
The hope is it will point to a wider understanding of the complexities of such conditions.
The Oscar-winning director of The Fighter could not have picked a finer cast to illustrate his point. Cooper delivers an inspired, intelligent turn as the out-of-control and socially inept Pat jnr, whose prospects appear bleak, at best. Lawrence riffs off him nicely as well, with the whiff of sexual tension never far away.
De Niro, as Pat snr, is a revelation, delivering his best performance in years as the football-obsessed bookie patriarch whose domestic structure just may have to shift. This is anything but a phone-in performance.
Australia's Jacki Weaver, as the attentive, secondary parent, has done well to be included in this year's Oscars list.
Ultimately, the film plays out as a crowd-pleaser of sorts. Tiffany needs Pat jnr to partner her in a dance comp that means everything to her. As if taking a leaf out of Little Miss Sunshine, the stakes are not stacked in their favour. Yet it hardly matters. There is a likeable quality to this small-town, tightly knit dramedy overall, which defies the odds to engage and entertain.
Yes, it is messy, erratic and untoward to begin with, but beyond the chaos lies an inherent charm that grows and refuses to go away. It's easy to feel puzzled, even dismissive, at first glance. But this latest picture from Russell demands closer inspection. It's giving Argo and the coming Lincoln a good run for their money. I wouldn't be surprised if it makes a clean sweep come Oscar night.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Rated M, 122 minutes, opens ThursdayStars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles