So imagine there are two movies playing in the same cineplex. One of them is a sodden indie movie about a bipolar guy with intermittent episodes of violent rage. Filmmakers love mental illness because economically sheltered white people can speak on it with some authority, unlike seeing your father beaten to death by Minutemen. Anyway, doesn't seem too promising.
The other movie is a romantic comedy with mutual stalking, climaxing with a ballroom dance competition. So precious, and the cinemas are littered with this kind of thing all spring. Anyway, that doesn't sound like a real good time either.
So you could definitely see Silver Linings Playbook as two mediocre films smooshed together. The surprising thing is that together they make up a movie that's actually good. The whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
It certainly helps that onscreen one of those parts is embodied by Jennifer Lawrence. It's not just that she's got a great rack, although there is that. She's also able to sell her character's bullheaded determination and obvious scheming as part of her makeup. It feels like a surprise when she influences Bradley Cooper's character to be better, inevitable as it may be.
The gambling subplot also shows more taste for depicting economic distress than the vast majority of film and TV. One supporting character has a model home with his wife, iPod ports on the wall of every room. This is contrasted with the more down-at-heel main characters, but the resulting job stress is destroying him. Just a little bit of light is shed on the blind spot here.