I'm at a crossroads with Bradley Cooper. As much as I like him in his more serious work, I'm always surprised when he turns in a performance that strays from his name-making "Hangover" persona. I haven't been able to shake the idea that he's a born d-bag, but if anything can change my mind it's his thoroughly human contribution to "Silver Linings Playbook."
Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a teacher just released from an eight-month stint in a mental institution which he served for an outburst that subsequently left him jobless, homeless and wifeless. He's literally back at square one, living with his parents and under a restraining order from his wife, but Pat's embraced a fully optimistic outlook to get his life back on track – something he clings to with a dogged determination that's equal parts endearing and silly, especially in the face of the array of idiosyncratic people in his life.
Chief among them is Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is baggage personified after the death of her husband. She provides a sounding board for Pat, who up until now has been given free crazy reign over the film's emotional expression (think 4 a.m. tantrums over the ending of a book and the overall frank honesty of a 10-year-old boy). Better yet, she gives him a run for his money in the battle of wills for who's more inappropriate as a darkly comic, bitchy-because-I-can black sheep.
The evolving relationship between this Little Engine That Could and caustic cynic is what drives "Silver Linings." They connect because the rest of society doesn't know what to do with them, but their friendship begrudgingly develops as each discovers a practical use for the other – she as a pathway of communication to his wife, and he as a dance partner for an upcoming couples' competition.
Cooper and Lawrence are brilliant together, and it comes across with hilarious results. They're immature, selfish and fumbling, and this childish dynamic is only egged on by the nosy weirdos they call family. Tiffany's holier-than-thou older sister Veronica (Julia Stiles) does her meddling part, but it's Robert De Niro as Pat Sr. that takes the neurotic cake.
It's abundantly clear that the apple didn't fall far from the crazy tree upon meeting the Solitano patriarch, an obsessed high-stakes bookie with a serious superstitious streak for his Philadelphia Eagles. He comes into play in a major way toward the end of the film, but he gets a fair share of screen time throughout – which he uses to both bully and ingratiate himself into his son's life (and, eventually, the audience's good graces).
That's the way of most of "Silver Linings Playbook." It's subversively funny, and at the same time switches gears to serious so fast you're left with the smile from the last laugh still dumbly plastered on your face. It's a tumultuous mix, but the cast makes it work with good humor, heart and sincerity. The script, adapted from the novel "The Silver Linings Playbook," keeps things moving in the same spirit. It does begin to drift toward the climax, but doesn't stray too off-course before tying it all together for a sweet – if just as offbeat – finish.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Renee Lorenz
Published Jan. 11, 2013
Classic gangsters loved a good embarrassment of riches. And for a movie like "Gangster Squad," showing off is fine. But, when the swanky style of the era meets the stylized swank of the movie's own excesses, things get out of hand.
Published Jan. 3, 2013
It feels like not a week goes by without someone posting something about how Facebook's invading everyone's privacy, spying on your browser history, etc., ad nauseum. (These posts are usually made on Facebook, by the way.) I understand the generic concern over the Orwellian slippery slope, but it doesn't take me too long to re-assess and arrive back at my old conclusion: Who cares?
Published Dec. 31, 2012
Although outsiders may not see Milwaukee as a hotbed for the performing arts, locals know there's plenty of talent to go around. And, there are numerous venues across the city that proudly show off area actors, dancers and musicians. But, despite the wide array of opportunities available, Katie Rhyme and Karen Zakrzewski still felt something important was missing.
Published Dec. 25, 2012
Merry Christmas, "Les Miz" lovers - I'm about to hate all over your musical.
Published Dec. 25, 2012
Well, it took director Quentin Tarantino 20 years, but he finally got his Western ... kinda. Although it's fair to say he's been preparing his entire career with his raucously bloody shoot-'em-ups, Tarantino's time warming up has been well spent if "Django Unchained" is the final result
Published Dec. 21, 2012
Unlike most middle-aged men, Judd Apatow can afford a whole garage of Camaros and Mustangs. So, it makes sense that his mid-life crisis would manifest not with a youthful car buy, but by splurging on the production of a new movie.
Published Dec. 19, 2012
They say time flies when you're having fun. I don't know who "they" are (probably those terrifyingly upbeat "glass half full" people), but they nailed it. My 2012 is a blur of exciting times and memorable moments, most of which my lawyers have advised me not to discuss in detail. There's still plenty to talk about, though, and I've shared the highlights below.
Published Dec. 18, 2012
Well, another year of movies is (almost) in the books. Full of many memorable ups and seared-in-my-brain-forever downs, here's my take on the best (and worst) of 2012.
Published Dec. 14, 2012
Eleven years after "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" introduced audiences to the majesty of director Peter Jackson's Middle-earth, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" makes a triumphant return to the mythical land with a new trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."
Published Dec. 12, 2012
After being tasked with putting together an actual wish list, I'm legitimately afraid of the death glare I'll get if I hand over my ultra-practical, completely un-whimsical list of stuff I want. So, I'm posting it here.