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Reviewed: 'Silver Linings Playbook' 

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SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

*** ½

Writer-director David O. Russell, who makes decent movies when he's not being a major-league jerk behind the camera (his temper tantrums with Lily Tomlin and George Clooney are well-documented, with the former skirmish captured for immortality on YouTube), follows The Fighter with Silver Linings Playbook, a disarming seriocomedy about Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a former teacher who's been released after a stint in a mental facility.

Pat lost it after catching his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) in the shower with a fellow instructor, and no one's quite sure if he's really ready to be back in the real world again. His dad, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), suffers from OCD, resulting in a prickly relationship between the pair. Pat eventually meets someone who's apparently as off-kilter as himself: Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who's had her own share of mood swings ever since the death of her husband.

Adapted by Russell from Matthew Quick's novel, Silver Linings Playbook easily overcomes its familiar beats (a sports brawl, a missed appointment, a climactic competition) thanks to a real attention to character detail, a nonjudgmental approach to all the flaws plaguing the players, and a cast that works beautifully together. Chris Tucker, who's appeared in nothing but Rush Hour movies for the past 15 years, is a welcome addition as Pat's buddy from his institution days, while De Niro's late-career mugging actually works for a character who spends every moment fretting over the fortunes of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cooper's fine as well, although it's Lawrence who explodes off the screen. Already an Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone and a franchise star due to both The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class, she's likewise solid gold in Silver.

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