With his 2010's The Fighter and his latest movie Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell has proven to be an avid student of the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. His films have inherited the rapid and interrupted dialogue that we can find in Howard Hawkes' Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940). Both The Fighter and Silver Linings concentrate on the issue of the dysfunctional family, where arguments are obviously going to occur. Most other movies in these arguing scenarios tamper with the dispute by allowing each character to get their words through distinctively without interruption, but Russell realises that this isn't reality. He allows these characters to talk over each other and interrupt, which is chaotic and really funny.
Pat Solitano is released from a mental institution, where he was placed because he assaulted the man his wife had an affair with. He has a positive new outlook on life, but for the wrong reason. He wants win his wife back, even though everyone around him tries to persuade him against it for his own good. His mother (Jackie Weaver) has the patient of a saint with Pat and his father (De Niro), who also is a tad off the wall with his superstitious obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles and gambling. Pat and his father don't bond and never really have with the obstacle of Pat's older brother Jake (Shea Whigham). However, Pat Senior does try, which he explains in an extremely emotional scene midway through the movie. Life back home with family is tense, we get scenes that commence with light humour, which then transcend to verbal or domestic violence.
Pat has his friends too. Danny (Chris Tucker), who spent time with him on the inside and has a bizarre obsession with his hair. Ronnie (John Ortiz), who fully supports Pat, but is losing his own mind slightly because of the leash his wife has on him. Through Ronnie, Pat is introduced to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is recently widowed and who also had a mental breakdown, but she used sex as her weapon rather than violence. They enjoy a discussion about the different medication they have been on. Although Pat is attracted to Tiffany, he won't give in to sex with her because he feels it will destroy his chances at reuniting with his wife. They become friends, Tiffany promising she'll help him with contacting his wife in exchange for Pat being her dance partner for a competition. Just like the family this friendship/love interest is dysfunctional. Soon Tiffany and the family meet not on good terms and the insanity begins resulting in a whacky bet involving Eagles vs Giants and the score Pat and Tiff get in the dance competition.
Russell follows the conventions of the modern romantic comedy, but with his own screwball twist on it. That is what makes this movie so refreshing. Also, it has to be mentioned that Russell has true technical skill in smooth camera work and cinematic vision. Many of his shots are inspired by Scorsese, and the tracking shot of Pat in the dance function is like watching a Brian De Palma thriller.
This is a really great movie, probably the best casting of this year. Great to see Chris Tucker in a good movie again and this is possibly De Niro's best performance since Heat (1995) or Jackie Brown (1997).