Editor’s note: This is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read the other posts regarding this event, please click here. Thank you, and enjoy!
By The Phage of Film Phage
After seeing Wet Hot American Summer – his “big” movie debut – did you ever think you’d see Bradley Cooper make a name for himself? How about not just make a name for himself… but star in a film that sees him nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role and the film itself pick up nods for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in addition to nods for direction, editing and screenplay? No, I don’t think you would have. But this is that film: Silver Linings Playbook.
Considering all of the nominations it’s picked up, it’s not the “typical” film you’d expect to get such plaudits. It’s dark, it’s funny and it’s a truly engaging story, but it’s not a biopic. Hell, it has Chris Tucker in it! Who’d have thought you’d have seen Tucker in an Oscar nominated film too? Back when we reviewed this on Film Phage we began the campaign to get Chris Tucker back in more movies and we still stick by our cause. But before we get distracted and wax lyrical about the whirlwind that is Chris Tucker, we should explain why we stand behind Silver Linings Playbook as a true contender for the Best Picture nomination.
Let me get one thing clear to begin with… I don’t expect this to walk home with the Award come the big night, purely because I don’t think it’s “that” type of film. But to dismiss it because of this would be a massive disservice to what I see as one of the most original and beautifully crafted films of 2012, due in no small part to the lead roles portrayed by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Silver Linings Playbook tells the tale of Pat (Cooper) who’s returning to a “normal” life after a stint in a psychiatric ward for an extreme case of bi-polar disorder, and how he deals with the trials and tribulations of dealing with his illness and his social life. It just so happens that he runs into a mutual friend by the name of Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany has issues. So does Pat. And so begins one of the most original and poignant “romance” movies you’ll see.
What I particularly found engaging about Silver Linings Playbook was the delicate way it dealt with mental disorders. As Robert Downey Jr. mentioned in Tropic Thunder “you don’t go full retard” when you’re portraying someone with a disorder, and sure it was said in jest, but it stands true. What Cooper and Lawrence have managed to capture is a sympathetic and captivating representation of people who are struggling with their internal demons, whilst also leaving room for humour. You have no idea how hard it is to get this right – on one hand, you could come off as a disgusting caricature, but on the other hand you could play it too straight down the line and lose people’s connection to the characters. But they find it… boy do they find it.
I admit here that I’ve always been a fan of Bradley Cooper – some dismiss him as a one-trick pony: the jock, or the cool guy. And roles in The Hangover, Limitless and The A-Team do little to dispel these associations, but I really feel Silver Linings Playbook has allowed him to flex his acting chops in a way that I always knew he could. The guy is immensely talented and I’m so glad he’s been recognized up here. Hopefully a slew big roles follow for Cooper. But I knew all this. I expected brilliance from Cooper. What I didn’t expect was how mesmerizing Jennifer Lawrence could be – both physically and emotionally. I know Lawrence’s work mainly from X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games, but saw her as an “OK” lead – she did little to really make me take notice. But her role as Tiffany has totally changed all of that for me. Like Cooper, she really sold you every emotion and her comedic timing was on fine form too for those “awkward” laughs that the film brings out. And you’ll also notice I mentioned the words “physically mesmerizing” up there too, right? Well… she just looks absolutely stunning. Once again – something that I’d never really attributed to her… maybe it’s the black hair?
Ultimately, I urge you to get out there and check out Silver Linings Playbook if you haven’t already. You cannot afford to dismiss this film out of hand because it either a) sounds quite dark being about mental disorders, or b) because it stars people that you don’t really “rate”. Yes, the film is dark, but it’s beautiful and the laughs are there. If the ending doesn’t melt your heart and make you feel great, then I don’t know what will. And those lead actors? This is a game-changing film for them both, and I can’t wait to see what comes next from them. OK, so that would be The Hangover: Part III and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but you know what I mean, right?