The advertising campaign for this movie confused me, so much so that I wasn’t keen on seeing until this guy, a Trusted Film Critic, deemed it his favorite movie of the year, and then it started getting nominated for awards all over the place. I mean, I’d see one ad that’d make it look like it was the sequel to this shitty movie from 10+ years ago, and then I’d see another ad that’d make it look like some sort of sister movie to this, which was not shitty. And then, when I was watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I saw yet another recut trailer that focused on the parts of the movie about the Philadelphia Eagles, and I just didn’t know what to think. I was a glass case of emotion. So I just broke down and saw it, and loved it, and there you go.
I think the ad campaign was so twisted (dare I say bipolar? would that be too cliche?) because, superficially, this movie could be deemed a “romantic comedy” and thus valueless in the eyes of anyone who is not a sappy woman (i.e., the Academy, men, people with taste). The movie contains Romance and Comedy, so it wouldn’t be out of line to label it as such. But it goes a lot deeper than that, and it doesn’t follow the cheesy tropes of a rom-com. It’s really just a weird, meandering, random story about two people who are sort of messed up, and there is a dancing thing at one point, and also there is football involved. Maybe kind of like life a little, in that there are many unrelated conceits, and what brings them together is the fact that they’re all happening in someone’s life. I assume David O. Russell wanted to avoid being limited by that previously mentioned genre’s negative connotation, and I don’t blame him, because look where this movie ended up! Oscar nods, Golden Globe wins, and generally great press for everyone involved. This post will be no different as far as the “great press” is concerned. As I said before, I dug it.
Jennifer Lawrence is a special actress, because at 22, she made Tiffany– a much older, lived-in character–truly come to life. I can’t think of another actress who could pull that off at that age. She’s been in varied works to date (Winter’s Bone, The Hunger Games), so I think it’s safe to say that she’s going to bombard us with her varied talents for a long time. I have yet to see her in anything else (besides last night’s SNL, which was below average), but I look forward to following her career nevertheless. Damn, I sound like her mother.
Bradley Cooper is also special, and maybe just as radiant as J.Law in this movie. This guy really shouldn’t be as good as he is. He’s too attractive, and he could have totally skirted by on his looks and played that douchey character from Wedding Crashers; for the rest of his life. But he doesn’t, and that’s really admirable. He’s got great straight-man timing, quiet intensity, hidden sensitivity, and holy shit, I’m starting to sound like People Magazine. Sorry. But it’s true. You’ve seen this, right? Anyway, perhaps the greatest compliment I can shower him with is that he really holds his own against Robert Freaking De Niro. It may be because De Niro doesn’t actually play a Tough Guy in this movie, and so they’re on more of a (dumb phrase coming) level playing field. In fact, De Niro actually cries in this movie, and that’s a powerful thing to watch. He’s at that age where he could just coast on playing mean old dads (which he has already done thrice in the same franchise), so I particularly like this effort from him; Pat Sr. is a gambling-addicted man who really does love his son, and expresses it guilt-trippily. He also has a sweet, if limited, relationship with his wife, played by Jacki Weaver, who also does a marvelous (though maybe not Oscar-nomination-worthy) job. In fact, all of the supporting characters seem like complex, inconsistent, real people. (Just like the leads, fancy that!) The movie’s only fault, probably, is that we don’t get to see more of them. Chris Tucker, Paul Herman, and Julia Stiles are all barely in the movie, despite being great presences on their own. It really is Cooper and Lawrence’s ship to steer, though, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.
I also shouldn’t complain about the weird title, because in the end, I can’t think of anything better to call it. Normal People Just Like You is descriptive, but it also sounds like a motivational speech. Beautiful Strangers invokes a Madonna song and images of Mike Myers with affixed chest hair. Silver Linings Playbook makes you go, “HUH?!” but at least you turn your head. Fine, D.O.R. You win points. You also win points for playing an Alabama Shakes song over the credits.
None of the Oscar nominees have stood out to me thus far as Best Picture, only because I seem to like them all equally (rather than one very enthusiastically), but I think I’m going to root for Silver Linings Playbook in as many categories as I can. It’s about time that the Political Statements and the Period Pieces and the Fantasy Films take a backseat to a good-old-fashioned love story. You’re probably thinking that a romance between a bipolar guy and a sex-addict girl is the furthest thing from old-fashioned, but let’s not forget the most refreshing, beautiful aspect of the movie: Cooper’s Pat says “I love you” to Lawrence’s Tiffany before they’ve even kissed. It doesn’t get more old fashioned than that.