Silver Linings Playbook earns its ending in a way few movies do, let alone recent ones. The film concentrates on something that's usually treated as a simple waypoint in other movie journeys: finding a way to peek your head out from behind the Sisyphean boulder, even when all the signs suggest you should continue to hide. The boulder causes continuous crushing pain, but at least it's pain you're familiar with.
And speaking of crushing pain, do not be mistaken; the first 30 minutes of the movie are profoundly uncomfortable. You will be squirming in your chair, especially when "the incident" is revealed, the moment that lands Patrick Solitano Jr. in the mental hospital.
Patrick (and who knew there was an actor hiding inside Bradley Cooper?) gets out of mental hospital, only to land in a more abstract prison. He suffers from dreams he can't let go, he's oppressed by his parents, he's written off so often that when anyone shows him kindness, he can't even recognize it (and notice that these moments are when he's most explosive).
When he meets Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany, the real fireworks happen (and not the good kind). They need each other's help, but it's dark and desperate - Pat can't see beyond his own need to reconnect with his estranged wife, and Tiffany never loses sight of her own needs for even a second (take THAT manic pixie dream girl meme). She's not gonna put up with his blindsided bullshit, and if that's the side of himself he brings to work, she doesn't hesitate to manipulate him outright.
It's a complex situation with no easy solutions, and would have been a disaster without Jennifer Lawrence's nuanced performance. Also stay tuned for Robert De Niro, who actually acts for the first time in thirty years (and he's just as terrific as you remember him being).
Mental illness is often treated as a plague upon other people - an affliction for the weak or the mutated or the poorly raised. But when it comes down to it, who hasn't felt the atmosphere become so tight, so oppressive, that you feel like space is literally closing in? When you can't see anything inside your head, let alone outside of it? We write those moments off, "I was stressed," "I haven't gotten enough sleep lately," but as soon as a doctor puts a name to someone else's bad moment, we cease to treat it as a natural part of human experience, but as an unforgivable failing.
At the end of the day, you still have to live, you still have to function. But that isn't easy, and Silver Linings Playbook doesn't pretend it is. Go see it. It deserves all it's Oscar noms (and if there's a God in the academy, it will win Best Picture).