When I was deciding whether or not to bring The Flower to David O. Russell's latest, The Silver Linings Playbook, I checked over at IMDB's parental advisory. I'm just looking for the extreme over-the-line stuff, as when I took The Boy to Waltz With Bashir (an animated film which had a brief but suprisingly explicit oral sex scene).
Well. The summary there made it seem like a seething hothouse of explicit sex. This seemed a little unlikely to me, so I perused the entry more carefully and noticed it was full of things like "We hear that a character in a Hemingway novel is pregnant."
So I took the chance. And she really enjoyed it.
And it's not really very raunchy, though it is fairly adult.
The story is this: Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from an institution to the custody of his parents (Robert De Niro, Jack Weaver of Five Year Engagement) after snapping when he caught his wife having sex with another man, whom he promptly beat to a bloody pulp.
Or as we like to call it, "Texas".
I mean, seriously, my reaction is, "Yeah? Seems reasonable to me." Although he apparently went way over the line when he snapped and this was only the most extreme example of the way he'd been behaving his whole life.
So. Yeah. A little unstable. Compounded by the fact that, upon escaping, he wants nothing more than to get back with his ex-wife, and seeks to do so through mutual friends (John Ortiz and Julia Stiles) who introduce them to a wayward younger sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is also unstable, having recently lost her husband and gone a wild sex spree.
And so begins an unlikely Romantic-Comedy.
And, it's good. For a movie with such a sordid backdrop, it's really very sweet. (Indeed, that's doubtless the point). There are some nice parallels between Pat's bi-polar disorder and his father's sport's superstitiousness, bordering on OCD by itself, and becoming critical to the story's resolution.
As you may know, The Boy is a fan of the Lawrence, whereas I've been wary of her, though swayed by The House at the End of the Street and worried she'd end up another Kristen Stewart, who just does the same sullen moping through every film.
She's great in this role, and it's unlike any we've seen to date from her. By turns vulnerable, obnoxious, manipulative, sincere and sexy, she does what can only be called "acting".
Speaking of which, Bradley Cooper can also act. This may be less of a surprise but after The Hangover movies and Limitless and probably the People Magazine's Sexiest Man of the Year award, I hadn't thought of him in terms of his thespian qualities in some time.
But, yeah, it's a challenging role, always, playing the slightly crazy. Particularly bi-polar. The urge to ham it up must be tremendous, yet makes a mockery of serious mental illness. Cooper plays it subtle. His highs are high and his lows are low, sometimes even to comical effect to be sure, but the antics never swallow the character.
As such, we can sympathize with him not just because he's been victimized, but because he's willing to grow beyond that.
The Boy and The Flower both liked, as did I. I'd rate it the best of the burgeoning award season so far. It doesn't strive to be "important" or "weighty" and instead manages to be very human.