Release Date: December 25, 2012
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: David O’Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper; Jennifer Lawrence; Robert DeNiro; Chris Tucker; Jacki Weaver
This movie is faaaaantastic! A romantic movie for grown-ups, teeming with brave, brilliant performances from the leads right down to the support. I was astonished by some of the acting in this film, particularly from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, whose chemistry together practically seeps from the corners of the screen. It is an absolute joy to watch.
The movie, based on Matthew Quick’s book, follows Pat Solitano, Jr. (Cooper), a school teacher trying to put his life back together following a stint in a mental institution (he found his wife in the shower with a fellow teacher. Ugh). Truth be told, however, Pat has problems other than his marriage, namely his bipolar disorder and severe mood swings which often erupt into violence. At a friend’s house for dinner, he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), sister-in-law of said friend, and, man, is she a doozy…almost as certifiable as Pat is. As Pat struggles to rectify his relationship with his wife (whom he is certain still wants him), his parents (Jacki Weaver and a back-in-spectacular-form Robert De Niro), and himself (Pat begrudgingly visits a kind psychiatrist, Anupam Kher), he finds Tiffany constantly popping up (literally) in his life and a sort-of reluctant, unconventional romance develops.
I don’t want to get too gushy over the acting…I’ve already said it’s phenomenal, but I must give credit where credit is due. First of all, these are not easy characters to play. These characters are not physically handicapped, for instance, where the actors might rely on a physical tic to convey the character. They are mentally ill, “normal” to the outside world, but suffering just underneath the surface. To be able to bring that to life, and not for once allow the audience to think, “awww…poor guy,” is a sign of true acting. Bradley Cooper, until now, known as a cool dude kind of guy who you’d love to go and get drunk with, amazes with his easy charm and effortless characterization of Pat. Lawrence easily matches him and, arguably, steals the movie. She has a natural charisma and unaffected approach to acting which gives her an “everywoman” quality….she is not so much “acting” but “living” this role. The more the movie went on, the more I found myself making note of how wonderful she is. De Niro has been in his share of shit, let’s be honest. However, this role fits him like a glove and it’s beautiful to watch He has a scene with Cooper about two-thirds of the way through the film that, even in its brevity, with leave you speechless. Jacki Weaver, as Pat’s mom, more than holds her own as the matriarch of this dysfunctional family, a woman trying with all her might to hold on to an unstable son, and, arguably, just as unstable husband (Pat, Sr. is obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles to the point of severe OCD). Supporting parts are all played well, and it’s especially nice to see the elusive Chris Tucker in a non-Rush Hour movie for a change, and Julia Stiles as Tiffany’s uppity sister.
Director David O’Russell loves his family dysfunction. From his beginnings with “Spanking the Monkey,” to one of my personal favorites, “Flirting With Disaster,” to the Oscar-nominated “The Fighter,” Mr. O’Russell has a knack for making the dysfunctional seem almost functional. What family doesn’t have it’s own issues? His style is unobtrusive and he allows the scenes to play out, never forcing the scene or relying on gimmicky camera movements. This allows the audience to relate more to the characters as they are allowed to truly interact more with each other (notice how many times Cooper and Lawrence look into each other’s eyes, clearly playing off of each other). It is a technically simple film, devoid of many special effects, allowing the drama (that is not without its share of comedic bits) to unfold naturally and organically.
*2013 Academy Award Nominations
Best Picture…..Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon
Best Actor…..Bradley Cooper
Best Actress…..Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting Actor…..Robert De Niro
Best Supporting Actress…..Jacki Weaver
Best Director…..David O. Russell
Best Adapted Screenplay…..David O. Russell
Best Editing…..Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers