In this sweet dry comedy two people with serious mental health needs find ways to survive and be happy. Tiffany was severely depressed before her husband died and she copes now by getting drunk and sleeping with lots of different people.
Pat is bipolar and delusional but wasn’t diagnosed until he found his wife’s lover in their shower and almost beat him to death. He has recently been released from a mental hospital and is determined to get his wife back.
Unfortunately he thinks that if he can read as many books as she has, loses weight and can stop his mood swings she will want him back. He also avoids taking his medicine and has no way to stop himself saying whatever he is thinking.
His parents are supportive but his dad, played by Robert de Niro, has plenty of obsessions of his own. Pat senior has lost his job and is now gambling to raise money to open a restaurant.
Tiffany too has lost her job and wants Pat to help her with a dance competition. In return she’ll take a letter to his ex-wife and get round the restraining order. Tiffany is also lumbered with a very judgmental sister.
There’s a neat point made about what weird behaviour really is. For instance, Tiffany’s sister is incredibly proud of having an iPod dock in every room—including the toilet.
There is also some interesting casting in the film. Tiffany is played by Jennifer Lawrence. She previously starred in Winter’s Bone as a teenager struggling with poverty, a depressed mother and two young siblings to feed in the Missouri mountains.
In contrast Bradley Cooper, who plays Pat, usually stars in popular, undemanding comedies like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers.
The film is a little overlong. And the end feels stuck on, as though the director didn’t know how to stop. The happy ending rings a little bit false because in it people can only be saved by good luck and life isn’t often that neat.
These people are also conveniently suffering from the sort of illnesses that aren’t too messy or ugly. Nonetheless it does show mental illness as something that normal people get in the process of normal life. And that’s a kind of progress.
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