director David O. Russell
viewed: 02/23/2013 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Though I wasn’t all that interested in seeing Silver Linings Playbook from trailers, despite reviews, awards, et cetera, I did reach a tipping point with it. Chalk it up to Oscars hype or what-have-you, when it showed up in the local West Portal cinema, the Empire, I thought to myself, why not?
I liked writer/director David O. Russell quite well through Three Kings (1999). I then really anticipated I ♥ Huckabees (2004) which I ended up hating. And like his latest prior effort, The Fighter (2010), I found Silver Linings Playbook of an ilk that didn’t really do anything for me. Drama/dramedy with some pretty standard story elements. The Fighter looked like any number of any other boxing movies. Got good reviews, won Oscars. I didn’t need to see it. Silver Linings Playbook, a dramedy about people with bipolar issues, with their family units, with its doubtless happy ending, added with a dance contest? Oscar and audience pandering that usually doesn’t appeal to me. I avoid it.
But it’s pretty good. It is a “feel good” film, sends you through some awkwardness, but ends on its feet with boy and girl happily kissing in Christmasy lushness. After performing in a dance contest. It’s a crowd-pleaser. The actors all get pretty juicy roles. It notably got nominations in each Oscar acting category. It is what it is and that’s fine. It’s pretty good.
Really, though, for me, the movie was all about Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve liked her in Winter’s Bone (2010) and The Hunger Games (2012). She’s much different in Silver Linings Playbook. It’s arguable that her characters in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games are really not terribly different. Here she’s the young, gorgeous, angry widow of a police officer killed in a car accident. She sees in Bradley Cooper’s manic train wreck of a guy fighting his way through recovery a kindred spirit, and among other things, gets him to partner with her in a dance contest that turns out to be good therapy for them both. She’s a combination of angry, vulnerable, and utterly believable. And totally gorgeous.
I had to wonder if it was my red-blooded male heterosexuality blurring my objectivity in her qualities. Though there is that, I am far from alone on the opinion that she is both a very good actress and a very attractive young lady. For me, she made the movie work. Everyone is good in it, but she just makes it. My opinion.
And then she got the Oscar, too. So, I guess I’m not alone.