As the pic opens, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) is in his group therapy session at a psychiatric facility in Baltimore. It seems he was sent there as part of a plea bargain for brutally assaulting his wife’s boyfriend, when he caught them together in the shower. He has completed his minimum eight-month stay, so his mother (Jacki Weaver) arrives to bring him home to Philadelphia.
Despite being told that his wife Nikki (Brea Bree) has sold their house and has moved on with her life, Pat remains convinced that he can somehow win her back. Besides, since he is now living with his parents, he is expected to rejoin all family activities—the principal one of which is to watch Eagles football games and cheer along with his obsessed father (Robert De Niro). In fact, his father is not only obsessive, he’s also compulsive, and this is supposed to explain Pat’s bipolar disorder and other mental problems, since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Soon, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) the sister of his best friend’s wife, and she too is no stranger to mental illness, nor the drugs that go along with it. Although Tiffany has managed to avoid being institutionalized, she has plenty of her own issues, exacerbated by the recent tragic death of her husband.
The two are attracted to each other right away, but Tiffany seems to want it more, as Pat is still holding onto reconciling with Nikki—or at least getting her to lift her restraining order against him. Tiffany agrees to get a letter to Nikki (in violation of the order) if Pat will be her dance partner for an upcoming competition. Reluctantly, Pat accepts.
Of course, this means that he won’t have much time to be his father’s good luck charm watching Eagles games together, which could be a problem. Daddy-dear is wagering ever larger amounts of money on his beloved team, and his bookie friend Randy (Paul Herman), a Dallas Cowboys fan, is only too happy to take the action.
***SPOILERS AND OTHER COMMENTS***
Although the movie is long enough at 122 minutes, some expository footage was definitely left out. It is by no means clear how Tiffany knows Randy, unless everyone lives in the neighborhood, and “always” knew each other. But then, why wouldn’t Pat have known Tiffany earlier?
Given the apparently short (and unhappy) marriage of Pat and Nikki, one wonders how she did not notice his pronounced mental health issues before they tied the knot.
Important to the plot is Tiffany delivering a letter to Nikki, as well as the reply back to Pat. It is only a minor spoiler that Tiffany forges Nikki’s reply, but left unanswered is whether or not she even delivered the letter to Nikki in the first place.
As good as the film is, it still can’t avoid one of the more obnoxious pretenses of RomCom: Nearly everyone in the story is either screwed-up or, uh, “interesting.”
Finally, while his pathetic devotion to Nikki is what initially drives the movie, there is no particular psychiatric reason why being bipolar would also make him tone deaf in judging the character of a relationship—or cause him to violently assault his wife’s boyfriend, for that matter.