I owe Bradley Cooper an apology.
Before seeing Silver Linings Playbook, I was adamant that he was a terribly average actor and that his Oscar nomination was probably part of some mass Academy political movement/conspiracy theory to get one film in all four acting categories.
I was wrong. Bradley Cooper’s performance proves he is more than capable of handling a character of substance, perfectly conveying fear, heartbreak, hostility, confusion and eagerness in a subtle, endearing way that that is worthy of an Oscar.
I’m sorry, Mr. Cooper.
The plot in one sentence: Upon being released from a mental facility, bipolar Bradley Cooper sparks up a strange relationship with Jennifer Lawrence while attempting to mend fences with his estranged wife.
The review in several paragraphs: While it’s subject matter is notably dark, it meets it head on with enough humour and warmth that ensures that it never feels preachy, obvious or heavy-handed. What you get is a first-hand experience of how mental health issues affect everybody from the person trapped in their own head to their neighbours to the people closest in their lives. While I don’t have any personal experience with this, David O’Russell does and it’s clear the writing is coming from a real and honest place. While he doesn’t pull any punches, he’s not afraid to laugh either. The dialogue and situations are strange, funny and, I dare say it, quirky, but unlike try-hard indie fare, the off-kilter script is fitting.
As all the nominations attest to, this is an actor’s film. Cooper and Lawrence are incredibly likeable and watchable, whilst also instilling a sense of tension and uncertainty by what they do and say. De Niro not only has a role for the first time in years that wasn’t cut out of cardboard, but he also brings personal experience with mental health issues to the table and it shows. His is a tragic, endearing and ocassionally silly character who, along with the rest of the ensemble, is easy to like. Even Chris Tucker is good.
O’Russell’s screenplay is undeniably character driven, but it’s well-paced, excellently crafted and effortlessly enjoyable. Narratively, things seem like they might get wobbly when it becomes a dance movie late in the day, but it’s all part of a superbly written climax that offers several silver linings at once, through the clever use of feel-good movie tropes.
Silver Linings Playbook is my new Oscar favourite. Not that I think it will win anything (except maybe writing and one for Jennifer Lawrence), but that it’s my favourite film of this Oscar
“season”. Actually, I refuse to call it a season, I don’t know where that came from, it’s a few bloody weeks.