Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is trying to keep his cool. After assaulting his wife’s lover, he’s been released from a halfway house on a plea bargain and is under constant scrutiny by everyone. His only motivation: to prove himself to his elusive wife Nikki, played by Brea Bree who holds out until the end. Solitano’s own delusions are only outdone  by those of his family: with a great performance from Shea Whigam as the begrudged older brother to the prodigal son and Robert Deniro as an obsessive-compulsive whose motives are constantly in question, motivated more by superstition than affection.  Chris Tucker makes a couple brief appearances, adding a few laughs, and goes with the grain. Julia Stiles’ character is much to the same effect.

Cooper outshines them all, and at times seems like he could steamroll even Deniro if he wanted to. He’s only matched by Jennifer Lawrence‘s character, someone as haunted, broken and frantic as he is. David O’ Russell, who’s already left an indelible mark as a Hollywood auteur enters the traditional romantic screwball with gloves-on. His pairing Cooper/Lawrence would not be over exaggerated if likened to Howard Hawks own Bogart/Bacall, Grant/Hepburn combo.

If you think we’ve failed to mention credit where credits due to the writer–well, we haven’t. O’Russell himself penned  the dialogue driven, frantically paced script based on Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name. Even when it teeters on gratuitous exposition, it never resorts to gross-out or narcissism the way, say, the Farrelly Brothers would these days.

Nowhere does director David O’Russell cut corners. The camerawork alternates between intimate close-ups during the meatiest dialogue, but then opens up for the ensemble and provides great support to the choreography not only on the dance floor but throughout the bar in the film’s closing scene.

No reservations here. At the heart, this is a story about the tribulations love in the middle class, which is marked by desire, mania and above all something damn near impossible and built on a shaky, uncertain foundation. The Weinstein Brothers have again recognized and fostered a huge achievement led by serious talent.