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At the Karel Psychiatric Facility in Baltimore, sporting a very “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” vibe, with pill-taking routines and verbal therapy session circles, Pat (Bradley Cooper) goes through the court-ordered motions. But he clearly rebels against medication. Opposing legal and medical advice, Pat’s mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) picks him up to finally take him home after an eight month bid. His new goal is to win back his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), who cheated on him with another teacher. That episode ended in assault, his wife filing a restraining order, and Pat winding up in the psychiatric hospital.
He attempts to reacquaint himself with Nikki’s life by learning the courses she teaches at school, and obsessing over the various ways he can rekindle their love – a love he’s convinced has not dwindled, but merely been put on hold. Through his longtime friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a similarly unsound soul, suffering from the emotional distress of losing her husband in a car accident, consoling herself by sleeping with eleven coworkers, and then losing her job for it. Although she’s spontaneous and difficult for Pat to interpret, she knows Nikki, presenting an opportunity for communication despite the restraining order. In exchange for delivering a letter, Tiffany demands that Pat participate with her in a dance competition – one that coincides with a football game on which Pat’s obsessive-compulsive dad has bet a fortune.
Patrick is a smartly written, unique, extremely interesting character. And Cooper is superbly believable. He’s fast-talking, quirky, easily distracted, defiant, confrontational, delusional, and troubled by nearly everything; these irritations (set on by undiagnosed bipolarity and mood swings) result in hilarious dialogue – mostly one-man ramblings – which brilliantly realizes the natural comedy in dysfunction. It may involve serious problems, but exploits them in an enjoyably thematic manner. The editing also perfectly complements the frequently unsettling but laughably awkward scenarios, especially when the camera cuts away from one addled interaction to the next, rapidly changing subjects and locations (unfortunately, the overused reverse zooms later in the film appear silly). The supporting characters are also impressively amusing, each receiving enough scripting to be peculiar or idiosyncratic, and largely diverting. Every character is candid and shocking; the cerebrally damaged individuals make for eclectic, tumultuous, mixed up exchanges, and a delightfully bizarre premise for an equally unconventional romance. “I don’t have a filter when I talk,” admits Patrick.
Chris Tucker (as Danny McDaniels, a fellow psychiatric patient), Robert De Niro (as Pat’s superstitious, gambling-addicted father), John Ortiz, Dash Mihok (as the police officer who shows up every so often to nearly arrest Pat), and Anupam Kher (as Pat’s Indian therapist) each impart spectacularly memorable portrayals. These are intelligent and wittily written roles, penned by director David O. Russell, based on the novel by Matthew Quick. But it’s Lawrence’s turn as Tiffany that will likely get the most praise, once again revealing her versatility and range. Although she’s not nearly as realistic as Pat, there’s a mad-as-a-hatter sublimity to the duo falling for one another and perfecting their makeweight relationship, coupled with the side-splitting notion that attaining mediocrity is quite the celebratory accomplishment.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)