Bradley’s Blitz: Cooper’s Continued Growth as a Serious Actor the Only Silver Lining

The movie is a mess, but there is some evidence that Mr. Russell kicked and nudged and tweaked his star into doing something besides resting on his George Clooney charm and Pepsodent smile.

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Lawrence, left, and Cooper, right, in Silver Linings Playbook.

A lot of critics have lost their proverbial cool over Silver Linings Playbook, a rom-com about mental illness, ballroom dancing and the Philadelphia Eagles. I wish I knew why. It’s a slow, repetitive, meandering, mostly overacted little picture—perfectly agreeable but nothing special, and directed with a steamroller by David O. Russell. Go figure.
I have never been able to tolerate the pointless, meat-headed, masturbatory cinema of self-indulgent writer-director Mr. Russell, especially the moronic Spanking the Monkey (1994), the criminally boring Three Kings (1999) and the profoundly pretentious I Heart Huckabees, which poisoned the ozone in 2004. Six years passed, and I was shaken to my shoelaces by The Fighter (2010), the most powerful study of a down-and-out boxer since Rod Serling’s classic Requiem for a Heavyweight. The ridiculously titled Silver Linings Playbook, not in the same league as The Fighter, doesn’t do for Bradley Cooper what that movie did for Mark Wahlberg, but it does suggest that the eccentric Mr. Russell has learned a few things about where to place a camera and how to stage small scenes that add up to a satisfying whole.
For starters there’s Bradley Cooper, who’s built a solid following by devoting his entire career to trashy comedies, proving again that you can’t go broke reducing the IQs of the most undemanding segment of the public. So we got assorted loathsome Hangover Xeroxes, and Mr. Cooper got a People magazine cover. But unless you were one of the lucky theatergoers who caught his resplendent performance last summer in the sold-out production of The Elephant Man at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, then you have no idea what a prodigious talent he is. He will probably continue full-throttle turning out junk, giving his fans what they want, but I suspect that deep down inside, where his pride is, he wants to prove he can act. The movie is a mess, but there is some evidence that Mr. Russell kicked and nudged and tweaked his star into doing something besides resting on his George Clooney charm and Pepsodent smile. He actually does some acting.
He plays Pat, a bipolar substitute high-school history teacher and former athlete who returns home to Philadelphia after an eight-month meltdown in a mental hospital. Subject to irrational mood swings and violent rages, he went ballistic when his wife cheated with another faculty member. Pat beat up the guy and lost his job, his marriage, his house and his freedom, and he was sent away on a plea bargain. Now he’s back in town, in the custody of his dysfunctional parents, and determined to get back in shape, rebuild his life and win his wife back. His father (Robert De Niro), who is as crazy as he is, just wants Pat to return to what matters most in life—the religion of worshipping the Philadelphia Eagles. Meanwhile, Pat runs, works out, wears garbage bags to sweat, dispenses fun facts about American history while breaking his wife’s restraining order, and wakes his parents in the middle of the night ranting about Ernest Hemingway. Between tirades, he meets an emotionally disturbed widow named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has been fired from her job after having sex with 11 people in her office. Tiffany can compare prescription antidepressants with Pat faster than you can win Bingo at a Friday night rehab social.
Pat is on his way back down the mouse-hole, and who can blame him? His best friend from the hospital (Chris Tucker) is a perennial escapee who is forever inventing legal technicalities that never quite hold up when men in white shoes ring the doorbell carrying straitjackets. Tiffany, who turned goth slut after her policeman husband was killed playing Good Samaritan on his way home from buying lingerie at Victoria’s Secret, offers to reunite Pat with his wife if he will partner with her in a dance competition. During long rehearsals in the garage to songs by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, a mutual attraction blossoms, thwarted by awkward idiosyncrasies that keep the movie moving from one absurdity to another.
The football part of the movie—about how Pat’s crazy father, family members and friends bet their life savings and future on an Eagles game in a parlay that depends on at least a 5-point score in the dance competition—is so confusing I never did figure it out, and couldn’t care less. (Seems the father, who has been banned from the Eagles stadium for repeatedly starting riots, has invested everything in his beloved team in the hope of financing a cheesesteak business.) None of this makes sense, which is about par for a David O. Russell movie. It all ends in what would ordinarily seem anticlimactic, except for one thing: how can anything be anticlimactic if there isn’t much of a movie to precede it? Mr. De Niro hasn’t bothered to give a real performance for at least the past 10 years and he shows no signs of breaking precedent here. There’s nothing wrong with the overrated Jennifer Lawrence that some serious acting lessons couldn’t improve. The rest of the actors are pretty much on their own. Nothing mature or thoughtful here, which leaves Mr. Cooper to carry the show alone. He’s played it comfortable and he’s played it safe. Showing it’s fun to be bipolar, he could have played it like Jerry Lewis. Instead, he’s starting to realize the rewards of taking acting to a deeper level.
rreed@observer.com

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Running Time 120 minutes
Written by David O. Russell
and Matthew Quick (novel)
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro

Comments

  1. Liag says:

    Thank God that someone thinks the same as me about this young actress Jennifer Lawrence, she is the most overrated actress in recent decades by far.

    1. DL says:

      I’m with Liag and the reviewer, Mr. Reed. I think Jennifer Lawrence is overrated as well. She’s a decent actress who, as Mr. Reed mentioned, would probably become even better with further acting training. Her performances tend to be uneven. She was fairly good in Hunger Games, and I thought completely atrocious in X-Men: First Class, for example.

    2. Doug says:

      I think JL is a strange case. She was perfectly natural, unaffected, and powerful as a country girl in Winter’s Bone.

      Fortunately or unfortunately, she’s also very pretty. So Hollywood has snapped her up and cast her in cookie cutter rolls that don’t suit her. That’s the only explanation I have, because she was great in Winter’s Bone.

      Bradley Cooper, on the other hand, is annoying. He played an a-hole so well in Wedding Crashers. But anything involving depth escapes him. That’s because he has no depth. And he’s not very funny. But for his looks, he’s essentially a waste of space.

  2. jay says:

    Are you kidding me? This review is so far off I don’t even know where to start. But let’s try with Robert Dinero who was simply amazing in this role. I predict he wins an academy award. As for Jennifer Lawrence and being ovrated…the reviewer here was simply absent the day they taught how to spot great actors. Lawrence has actong chops way beyond her years. She will probably be nomonated for an academy awardb for this role. Her performance was so finally executed it blows my mind to imagine anyone who does’t recognize this brilliant actress. Finally Bradley Cooper is another gifted actor who shines in this movie. He to will get a nomination from the academy with a decent chance of winning. The movie itself comes together in such an ingenius way. With several other memorable characters this is easily one of the best movies of the year…maybe even the best.

  3. mj says:

    She may be a bit over-rated but come on, she’ll be a 2 time nominee soon and probably 3 after next years Serena, so saying she needs acting lessons is crazy. Part of her charm is that she has no formal training.

    On the other hand, I think part of the hype is that people are excited to have a young American actress who is attractive, likeable, and can carry a mega-blockbuster as well as indie films.

  4. Lapadite says:

    You are absolutely moronic and pathetic. Lmao. What an incredibly asinine and fundamentally misguided “review”. Please don’t ever publish anything again, you’re embarrassing yourself.

  5. Kyle says:

    Why does this dingleberry still have a career?

  6. astro says:

    Overrated is a term you throw around when you don’t like someone for no bona fide reason but you cannot articulate why. How about Mr. Reed just say: “I just don’t like her”? It’s about as substantive.
    That said, Lawrence is the most naturally talented actress to show up in decades. Actually, having watched them both come up, I’d say she is more naturally talented than Meryl Streep, who is also slightly “overrated.” (Sounds like a good thing to be).
    Now do I think Mr. Reed is an overrated movie critic? No. I don’t think about him at all. He’s just not that important. There is a difference between being a paid critic and being a childish douchebag. This is the type of thing that the standard internet troll would write.

  7. astro says:

    PS: Rolling Stone-Lawrence is a”miracle”. Christian Science Monitor-Lawrence is “remarkable”. NY Post-Lawrence is the best actress of her generation. And on and on. Way to call it Rex. LOL.

  8. Michael says:

    Rex still has a career because people like “astro”, “Lapadite”, and “jay” (who is either 10 years old or completely illiterate) come here and read his reviews. He may not always see a movie the way you do but they’re well written and invariably entertaining.
    As for Miss Lawrence, check out her “performances” in The Beaver and Like Crazy and yes even Winter’s Bone. I have to hand it her. She pouts to perfection. I’m yet to see her do anything else.

    1. Ozzie says:

      @ Michael:
      You’re a Twihard, right?

      @ Rex:
      Let’s see, Rotten Tomatoes has the critics 90% positive, audiences 87% positive, and in your Winter’s Bone review, you said Lawrence deserved a Best Actress nomination. Time to head out to pasture, maybe?

    2. JM says:

      The thing with Jennifer Lawrence is she just hits one note at best, and it is very tiring to watch over and over again. I can think of quite a few actresses in her generation that can dimensionalize a character, with complexity and move an audience. I thought Bradley Cooper was really good.

  9. Kyle says:

    Well-written? When I think of critic who write well, I think of Ebert, Glenn Kenny and James Beardinelli. Rex is just inflammatory & bitchy. Provides illogical support…

  10. McFly says:

    Just retire you grumpy old bitch.

  11. Rabid Goon says:

    Rex Reed needs to retire. He’s a worthless idiot. No one with any intelligence takes him seriously as a writer or a critic.

  12. Nicholas says:

    So wrong on all accounts. Must have missed the movie.

  13. Crystal says:

    @JM-Many observers thought she was great in those roles and others. You’re not impressed? Well that settles it. Ha. Her range is pretty remarkable.
    As to Rex, any moron can rant. If a critic needs to troll to gain attention, that speaks volumes about the sorry state of their career.

  14. Thank god someone finally stopped praising this awful movie. As the parent of a 22 year old son with bipolar there is NOTHING funny about this movie. Hearing people in the audience laugh was almost unbearable. Maybe people who don’t live with mental illness in their family find it funny but those of us who do find it heartbreaking.

  15. Francis says:

    This girl is the next Meryl Streep. She is an outstanding actress. You however, are you dim critic.

  16. justin says:

    Having read a number of Rex’s negative reviews, it seems like he almost liked this one. you should read what he has to say about movies he hates: mostly incoherent, sputtering rants where he tries to tear down the movie and everyone associated with it, all for no apparent reason (he never really bothers to explain WHY he hates the movies he hates).
    Back to the movie itself. I haven’t seen it, but I want to. that said the idea of a movie about mental illness that refuses to take the topic seriously makes me really hesitate. Serious movie about serious topics are allowed to be lighthearted, they just need to acknowledge the seriousness of the subject matter and several negative reviews I’ve read claim this one totally fails to do that.
    As far as Ms. Lawrence, she was absolutely terrific in Winter’s bone. I haven’t seen her in anything else, so no comment about her other roles other than to say that quite a few critics said X-Men failed to use many of its cast properly. Anyway, if I see this movie, it’ll be mostly to watch her performance.

  17. Peter says:

    Thank you for finally writing an honest and true review of this movie. I read the book a few years ago and loved it so much, such a great book that deals with all aspects of life and ‘crazy’ of everyday life. When I heard it was being made into a movie I was excited, and the trailer made it seem like it was going to be great. However, after seeing the movie I was saddened to see it turned into a typical ‘rom-com’ that misses the core point of the original story. And the ‘critics’ and media speak of this movie like it is the bet thing to happen to cinema since Forest Gump.

  18. Miriam says:

    I thought some of the acting was ok but the movie was by large not funny and way overrated. We are supposed to believe these two fall in love why? The dance scenes were somewhat charming and Cooper and Lawrence are attractive. But the movie overall, for me, was a fail.