In case you haven’t noticed, we have a new face around these parts. Jerry has taken up role of our entertainment correspondent, a role he fills in better than anyone else. He’ll be here every week giving you insights into the movies in the theatres near you. Take it away, Jerry!
‘Silver Linings Playbook’ won the Blackberry People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Of the twenty plus films I got to see at TIFF this year, this was the one that had my vote for the award.
After spending eight months at a psych ward, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released to live with his parents in Philadelphia (Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver). His wife, Nikki, has filed a restraining order against him but Pat is convinced they’ll be back together if he can prove he’s controlled his anger and is now a changed man. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who promises to get Pat in touch with Nikki under the condition he partners with her for a freestyle dance competition
At first glance, a comedy about mental illness would seem like a difficult feat. Leave it to director David O. Russell (who directed one of the best movies of 2010, ‘The Fighter’) to make it work. Yes, Hollywood has churned a number of films where dancing brings people together, but I doubt you’ve seen one with characters as sharply drawn as these. Also, given the very messy inner worlds these characters encompass, dance makes sense – it’s about rhythm, movement, space, expression, coordination.
‘Silver Linings Playbook’ evoked fond memories of ‘Rocky’. Both films have a terrific sense of place – the city of Philadelphia acts as its own character in both of these pictures. And both films have excellent scripts which feature characters that are as real as they can be portrayed – you can describe them like you can close friends or members of your own family: how they would react, or what they would say in situations.
The casting is perfection. Jennifer Lawrence has already established herself as a gifted actress, but now she’s playing a damaged character – one that is sexy, has the perfect line for any situation, but is also vulnerable. As for Bradley Cooper, I feel I should start from the beginning. Truth be told, there hasn’t been one Bradley Cooper film I’ve liked until now. In fact, I’ve found his screen presence rather annoying – he mostly plays the same kind of character: an unlikeable jerk. A film like ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ demonstrates that an actor can be a miraculous thing in the right role. Some of his comedic antics are present here, but the role requires his to combine these elements with dramatic acting. The character he creates here draws us to screen every moment he is present, and has us rooting for him even during some very intense verbal and physical outbursts. This is the sort of role that a young Jack Nicholson would be able to play effortlessly. And this comparison to Nicholson is perhaps the best compliment I can give Cooper. His performance here is worthy of an Oscar nomination, and I hope he continues to choose roles as challenging as these in the future. Jackie Weaver is also great as the voice of reason and this is a return to form for Robert De Niro, an actor who has been suffering from “Al Pacino Syndrome” for some time.
What makes ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ great isn’t its message or philosophies about mental illness, but its immediate human experience and the texture of that experience. Great films are able to create and reflect emotion. Mostly we as an audience remain aware that we’re sitting in a theatre watching a film, but every once in a while, we grow so absorbed in the experience of the movie that we forget ourselves – we’re sharing the identities and experiences as the characters of the movie. Such was the case for yours truly. Nearly three quarters into the year, and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ has made a very strong bid for occupying one of the very top spots on my Top 10 List of 2012.