News flash! Bradley Cooper can act. In the new film, “Silver Linings Playbook,” written and directed by David O. Russell, Cooper holds his own with a hefty ensemble of award-winning actors. Cooper even manages to shine in their company.
Cooper plays Pat, a former history teacher who has just been released from a mental institution after having spent eight months there for beating up his wife’s lover. Forced to move in with his parents because of a restraining order, he’s fixated on a reconciliation. Via therapy and anti-depressants, Pat has become a firm believer in silver linings.
Best friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) knows better (as does everyone else in Pat’s life) and tries hooking him up with his wife’s recently widowed sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). It’s a toss-up as to which of them is the most unstable. Sanity seems to have slipped through the cracks for Pat and Tiffany, but their fractured histories serve as the perfect catalyst for weird bonding.
Some romantic comedies are too cute (or raunchy) for their own good. The gifted Russell has elevated the genre to a new level in this irresistible, offbeat and trippy triumph. The writing is intimate and witty. His precision at dissecting the dysfunctional family is unparalleled, as evident in “The Fighter” (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and “Flirting with Disaster” (1996).
The casting in “Silver Linings Playbook” is magnificently meticulous. Oscar nominated Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”) is anxiously sweet as the mother who loves Pat unconditionally, while trying to appease her OCD Philadelphia-Eagles-fan-husband played by Robert DeNiro. DeNiro is hilariously heartbreaking as the fanatic who’s been banned from the stadium for fighting. Could be Oscar No. 3 for Bobby.
Audiences who caught Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated work in “Winter’s Bone” won’t be surprised by the depth of talent she exudes in this film, but they will be amazed. She possesses that rare gift of being a great actor at an early age whose future is all but guaranteed to soar.
But it’s Cooper who pulls the rug out from under moviegoers who expect to see the guy from “The Hangover.” His performance as the bi-polar, desperate Pat is as good as it gets. Who would have thought People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and gossip magnet would have such a brilliant silver lining?
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