Sometimes it really does pay to know exactly JACK and SHIT about a film before soaking it in. Here is a prime example of that. All I knew going in was: A) Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were in it and B) it was a ‘darling’ on the awards circuit. So with a little persuasion, I opted to give in and check out this potential ‘The Notebook’-like chick-flick RomCom piece of lame crap. The flick opens in a mental institute…I was instantly intrigued. The story follows Pat, played with chameleon-like panache by Bradley Cooper, as he is released from an 8 month stint of court-ordered institutionalization. Seems that he walked in on his wife, the love of his life, while she was ‘shower fucking’ one of his work colleagues….and then Pat snapped, both mentally and parts of the bastards body. On moving back in with his parents, played with their own personality quirks by Robert De Niro (showing more life than we’ve seen in a long time) and Jacki Weaver (playing the character of Dolores with a nice child-like ‘flavor’ to her maternal instinct, if that makes ANY sense). As Pat tries to get readjusted to life in the middle class neighborhood, circumstances bring him into contact with a human NEARLY as bat-shit crazy as he is (“Undiagnosed bi-polar”). Tiffany is damaged goods, with her own maladjusted ‘baggage’ involving her dead cop husband, a serious bout of promiscuity and her own episode of life ‘inside’. The relationship that forms is fucked up, charming and hilarious. By the time she has essentially bribed Pat into becoming her competitive dance partner, love is in the air. Dysfunctional love…but love none the less. In fact, I would wager that THAT is the root of this story….it’s a tale of dysfunctional love. ‘Love’ on a number of different scales. We see the budding romance of the two protagonists, we see parental love (and frustration), fraternal love (his brother’s a bit of a mess too), and deep, absurd ‘bromance’ (hate that term!)….and let’s not forget a key element of misdirected and flawed love. Silver Linings Playbook is a bit of an odd duck in it’s tone. Really, this shouldn’t surprise me considering that this is a David O. Russell film, that same David O. Russell who delivered to us the great Three Kings (1999); a film with another odd ‘spicing’ to its pace and tone. As the story here commences, the key characters are borderline unlikeable, which worried me….especially where Bradley Cooper was concerned. Watching a character go ‘bent’, fueled by a ‘filterless’, self-serving asshole streak for 2 hours is not really A Great Night at The Movies for this fella. We see him experience a couple of mental episodes that made me wish the men in white with the pretty syringes would kick the door in and haul the love-sick lunatic off to his padded room. But as the somewhat antagonistic relationship with Tiffany blooms, we start to see Pats keel begin to even out, especially when he gets pulled into Tiffanys dance competition dream (even if it is for a questionable ulterior motive involving the bypassing of a well-deserved restraining order). The acting in this film is top notch and I can understand the love that it’s been getting. The true revelation for me was Jennifer Lawrences masterful portrayal of Tiffany, a damaged gal who just needs some genuinely affectionate attention bestowed on her from ‘another’ to fill the emotional void inside that has her making stupid and destructive life decisions… even if lying and forgery is needed to get it. To be honest, I wasn’t overly blown away by Lawrences portrayal of Katniss in The Hunger Games (2012). There was something somewhat robotic about her. Not here. She feels fleshed out, with a nice balance being struck between flaws and virtues…all aided by the ability to swear like a champ. When Jennifer Lawrence shouts the word “Fuck!”, it’s art. And speaking of art, there are a couple of shots that really do a superb job of showcasing just how hot JL is. The woman can get that healthy, athletic body of hers moving like a snake (wipes drool from chin)…and it’s a sight to behold! Another performance that I found cool was that of Chris Tucker as Pats fellow mental patient Danny. First off, I had to ask “Where ya been, Chris?!”, after I realized who it was. Middle age has done that man a favor…at least in this film. Gone are his manic, high pitched Smokey/Ruby Rhod days. He still has energy but it feels nicely grounded. I hope that he can use this new, viewer-friendly tempo to creep back onto The Scene. Another revelation, as mentioned earlier, was Robert De Niro as Pat Sr.. He feels as though there is actual caring and frustration coursing through his performance. Added is the fact that, while trying to understand and cope with his sons illness, he has his own psychiatric issues (OCD, compulsive gambler) to contend with. As much of a dark n gloomy guy as I can be (love those downer endings), this film was a sweet change of pace. Silver Lings Playbook has it’s grating moments (all intentional) but the ride is worth it. Good gawd!…this flick left me feeling…what is this strange new sensation?…is this what ‘the kids’ call ‘happy’?….and ‘good’?! Jokes aside, this movie is a great example of ‘feel good’, and I can easily recommend it to just about anyone. It deserves the acclaim that it’s getting.
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