Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

25 December 2012

Looking for the Silver Lining

A quick note about David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. I really, really liked it.

On one level, Silver Linings is a predictable romantic comedy, with charming lead performances and the typical schemes, twists, and turns that accompany one of these heterosexual love stories that we are all so very used to seeing. Silver Linings is also a clichéd sort of movie when it comes to plot. Suffice it to say that there are no surprises in the film; one always feels slightly ahead of the characters, and the audience is always better at making decisions than the film's bumbling, messed-up characters.

Silver Linings is also a very funny movie. For its subject matter, this is no small feat. The film is about a man who went a little nuts on his wife when he found her in the shower with her lover. This man has anger issues (and all sorts of other problems) and is trying to deal with those issues while living with his parents after getting out of the hospital. In other words, the subject matter of Silver Linings is not – on the face of it – very funny.

The thing is, Silver Linings works. It works beautifully, in fact. That a movie with this many clichés and that is this indebted to the two-thousand-year-old heterosexual love plot of standard domestic comedy is still very interesting and delightful to watch is damn near shocking. But Silver Linings is great: funny, heartfelt, honest, and very clever.

And Bradley Cooper? I loved him in this. Absolutely loved him. He messes up more than a lot of characters I've seen in movies, and yet he bounces back. This character is embarrassingly earnest, frequently pathetic, totally delusional, slightly unhinged, and completely charming. Cooper will definitely get an Oscar nomination for the role (Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro will get them, too), and he deserves it. The performance is brave and fun, and Cooper has no trouble navigating the sense of when things are funny and when they have to stop being funny. Cooper and Russell handle all of this so deftly that late in the film when De Niro grabbed his son and gave him a sound bit of advice, I found myself deeply moved by the quiet bit of wisdom the father shared with his son.

Worth seeing.