Silver Linings Playbook scores on many levels – as an effective family dramedy, as a showcase for some brilliant acting and as another stellar turn from director David O. Russell. An Oscar touchdown! (Read on to understand the reference.)

Based on a novel by Matthew Quick, Playbook centers on Pat (Bradley Cooper), a former history teacher who has just been released from a mental institution after finally being diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He returns home to try and pick up the pieces, including attempts to reunite with his estranged wife. You see, the reason Pat ended up in a loony bin was because he found his wife with another man and then proceeded to nearly beat the guy to death – but that was really just the icing on the cake.

As soon as Pat enters his old life, you immediately see how the apple has not fallen far from the screwy tree. Pat’s dad, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) also has issues, namely an obsessive-compulsiveness revolving mostly around his beloved Philadelphia Eagles (so now you get it). Mom Dolores (Jacki Weaver) manages to hold things together for her family, but Pat Jr. has a tough time of it being around his button-pushing dad. Then he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an intriguing, quirky woman who has, you guess it, mental problems of her own. She talks Pat into dancing with her in a ballroom competiton, and it changes both their lives. Delightfully, Playbook turns from family drama to romantic comedy, and yes, watching a bunch of crazy people trying to connect in a real emotional way totally works.

Bradley Cooper is nothing short of amazing in Playbook. I suppose we’ve seen glimpse of his skills, especially his comedic skills, in films like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers and maybe some dramatic chops in films like Limitless but certainly nothing to this degree. Granted, Cooper has the talented Russell behind him, who is known for guiding his actors to Oscar nominations and wins (Christian Bale in The Fighter, for example), and cutie Bradley truly rises to the occasion.

As does Jennifer Lawrence, who may not need a great director to turn in a compelling performance but when given the right instructions, runs away with it. In a weak Best Actress year, Lawrence seems to be topping everyone’s list – and happily, she deserves it, playing the kooky, wounded Tiffany in a unique and refreshing way. De Niro, as well, could be looking at another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as the patriarch who cares more about his Philly Eagles superstitions than he does about his son’s well being. It’s really nice to see the veteran doing what he does the best.

Of course, the capper to Silver Linings Playbook is director David O. Russell. He adapted the novel himself and pours in some of his own personal experiences (his 18-year-old son has bipolar disorder), which makes the film far more authentic than you’d expect. One of his many talents is being able to write and direct a scene in which characters are talking over each other in an explosive situation but then to bring it back to the center of the moment. All his films have this element, certainly in Flirting with Disaster and The Fighter, but he perfects it in Playbook. This is his best film so far and maybe, crossing fingers, this may earn him a well-deserved Oscar. Only time will tell.