Monday, September 10, 2012


If you woulda told me that one of my favorite films at this festival so far was gonna be a romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper, Chris Tucker and a modern day Robert Deniro (who before I saw this felt he should consider retirement) with more than its share of clichés, I woulda probably laughed at you. I enjoyed the Fighter very much (David O. Russell's last film) but part of me felt he was doing it for a paycheck (or possibly another chance to yet again work with his muse: Mark Wahlberg). It was unlike anything else Russell had done. Outside of The Fighter showing a dysfunctional family (a common thing in Russell's film) there was no sign of incest, existentialism, twisted humor or all the other things commonly associated with his work. But when I read the synopsis and saw the cast of his latest film: Silver Linings Playbook, I was convinced he pulled a “David Gordon Green” and sold the fuck out. But I was wrong. I now think making The Fighter helped Russell get his style across to a more mainstream audience (without compromising his style too much) now that he has the platform to do so thanks to all the attention The Fighter got. In Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper plays; “Pat” a former high school teacher that's recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder after an incident where he almost beats the man who was having an affair with his wife to death. He’s wound tight, has many quirks beyond his bipolar disorder, doesn't want to take his meds and has pretty much no filter between the shit he thinks and what comes out of his mouth (in a scene where he first meets the love interest, played by Jennifer Lawrence, he bluntly asks; "so, how'd you're husband die?" instead your typical; "nice to meet you"). After a stint in a mental hospital in Baltimore Pat goes back home to Philadelphia to live with his parents: Dolores (Jackie Weaver) and Pat Sr. (Robert Deniro). Early on in the film we come to find out that it was only a matter of time before Pat had some kind of a violent outburst and he’d been holding a lot of shit in for a long time. His wife’s infidelity was just the tipping point. Now that he’s out of the mental hospital he’s trying to get his life back together and reconcile with his wife (who doesn’t really seem to want him back) but things get complicated when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) - a depressed widow who’s on the verge of losing it. After a few awkward encounters the two form a strange friendship (Jennifer even offers to help Pat get back with his wife) but it slowly turns in to an attraction and Pat has to choose between Jennifer (the woman who really cares about him) or trying to get back with his unfaithful wife who may or may not even want him back (she has a restraining order against him and makes no effort to see him when he gets out of the mental hospital.

Casting Bradley Cooper for this role was an interesting choice. Given David Russell's history working with Mark Wahlberg and the kinda of character Pat is ("the confused crazy guy"), you’d think Wahlberg would be the first choice to play Pat. I actually appreciate that Russell decided to go with someone else even if I was a bit sceptical about Cooper. I didn't think he had it in him to portray someone that's bipolar but he actually did a great job (although Cooper’s portrayal IS more comedic than realistic). His timing and how he plays off the other actors in the movie is great and he’s got plenty of memorable moments and some great one-liners. Chris Tucker also surprised the hell out of me in his supporting role as; “Danny” - Pat’s friend who’s also suffering from some kind of manic/obsessive compulsive disorder. I didn't think he was capable of doing anything outside of making fun of Chinese people (the Rush Hour saga) or weed humor (Friday) but he proved me wrong. Chris Tucker is ok in doses as opposed to an entire movie and Russell sprinkled him throughout the film instead of shoving him down our throats every second like Bret Ratner has been doing since the late 90’s. Robert Deniro also managed to not play his regular one-dimensional self (which is what he’s pretty much been doing for the last 10+ years) and pulled off a very solid performance. What’s also a great about Silver Linings Playbook is that Pat and Jennifer aren’t the only ones with "problems". Just about all the characters in the film have some kind of problem, issue, repression or baggage and Russell does a great job at showing that (Pats father is borderline OCD and has a gambling problem). His direction is great and he sets up all these different atmospheres in the film. All the scenes involving Pat and his family are shot up-close & intimate and really hammers home his (somewhat) chaotic home life while most of the scenes with Jennifer are funny and light (minus a few key scenes that are kinda heavy). And Russell ties everything together with a great ending involving a dance competition and an important Eagles/Giants football game.
I know it’s only day two but Silver Linings Playbook has been the highlight of the festival so far (I’ve seen nine movies so far). But keep in mind I have yet to see Iceman, To The Wonder, Spring Breakers, Argo and Something In The Air so that remains to be seen...

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