David O. Russell's new film, Silver Linings Playbook, is at times chaotic--but purposely so. The chaos helps the audience understand, on some level, the mindset of the main character and those who surround him. Overlapping dialogue builds a sense of unease in an audience, and the more it builds, the harder it can be to watch.
When Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from the mental hospital following a court-ordered eight month stint, he moves back in with his parents and stays fixated on his one major goal: get back in his estranged wife's good graces so they can be together again. Those around him know it's not a very realistic goal, but Pat will not be persuaded. He reconnects with some of the people from his old life, including his psychiatrist and a good friend's sister-in-law Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence)--herself a medicated, depressed young widow--trying to piece his life back together. Tiffany and Pat share a connection most can't understand and some actively try to disrupt, but while their story doesn't hit the typical notes it seems to work well enough for them.
Unlike most romantic comedies (though there's much more to it than that label would suggest) Silver Linings Playbook feels honest and, for the most part, unforced. These characters are messy, and not in cute or 'adorkable' ways. Everyone has issues he or she is dealing with--or pointedly not dealing with--and those considered crazy by most may just be the ones most in touch with themselves.
That's not to say that those crazy people are all that put together, either. Their problems don't have easy solutions, and while the film holds to that idea for the most part, it falters at its end. The film ends on a winning, if somewhat false, note--one that seems to solve things and thus doesn't quite feel earned.
It doesn't fit quite as "comedy" or "drama," but does a great job mixing tones and averting typical expectations.