• Ortiz (right) with Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Tony Adler’s positive review aside, I was most excited to attend The Motherfucker With the Hat at the Steppenwolf so that I could finally see John Ortiz in a lead performance. A New York friend had been raving for years about this actor’s stage work (he cofounded LAByrinth Theater with Philip Seymour Hoffman, with whom he’s performed numerous times), and watching him in Silver Linings Playbook gave me a sense of what he could do with a substantial role. Playbook has received plenty of accolades for its ensemble cast, but the praise tends to overlook Ortiz, who strikes me as the film’s secret weapon. In most films about a mentally ill hero, Ortiz’s character, Ronnie, would be a cipher—the protagonist’s most emotionally stable friend and stepping-stone to “normal” life. (See, for instance, Delroy Lindo’s construction worker in Mike Figgis’s overlooked Mr. Jones.) But Ronnie isn’t too far from the edge himself, underscoring the movie’s theme that sanity is never a given but the product of constant hard work.