A romantic comedy may feel like a strange new direction for director David O. Russell (“I Heart Huckabees,” “The Fighter”) but his adaptation of Matthew Quick’s namesake novel is a winner, serving up equal parts romance and uplifting drama. What of Bradley Cooper 2.0?  He plays a demanding role to perfection.

His Pat Solatino, a bipolar Philadelphia man who spent eight months in a psych ward after a brutal beating put on by his wife’s lover. Pat’s released into the hands of his long-suffering parents (Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver) who are continually woken up in the middle of the night by another of Pat’s rants (one about Hemingway is very funny, another shows the ill-effects that a disease like this can have on family).

Cooper is so on point with Pat’s manic episodes, his out of control anger, goofy nature, and vulnerability but this romance doesn’t work nearly as well if Lawrence didn’t match him in intensity. The two are a whirlwind of crazy, veering toward inappropriate honesty and prickly defensiveness territory while still holding on to the  feeling that these two need each other front and center. This is first-rate acting. Ditto for DeNiro, whose character is a superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan with O.C.D. I don’t know who finally woke him up from his slumber but he gives a lively, touching performance.

“Silver Linings” sounds like it may be rough-going but it reminded me a lot of “Little Miss Sunshine.” In fact, it also ends with a wacky competition sequence (dancing as opposed to beauty pageant). It’s a heartfelt and eccentrically funny film about people who you wouldn’t normally think of when it comes to the word “normal” but who feel that that’s just fine anyway.

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