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Silver Linings Playbook

Crazy Love – ★★★★½

David O’Russell’s latest film is a story of two lost souls, swimming in a fish bowl, year after year, running over the same old ground. Hold on now… No… that’s a Pink Floyd song… Eh

Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solatano, a man who lost everything after attacking the schmuck who was having an affair with his wife. He escaped prison with a plea bargain that saw him spend eight months in a mental institution. His mother and father (Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver and Little Fockers’ Bobby de Niro) take him in as he fixates on reuniting with his wife, despite her holding a restraining order against him. That is until the arrival of Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany, a recently widowed young woman with issues of her own…

So far, so Hollywood, right? Well with this being a David O. Russell of Three Kings, I ♥ Huckabees and The Fighter fame, we were never going to get a flat or formulaic rom-com. Instead he injects the film with a sense of chaos that never really subsides for two hours. It’s helped by a strong performance from Cooper in his most watchable role since the irrepressible Sack Lodge in Wedding Crashers. I’ve often wondered what trajectory his career might have taken if he hadn’t taken the part in The Hangover and become People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2011. But between this film and next year’s The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to Blue Valentine which puts Cooper alongside Ryan Gosling), Cooper should be given some credit for taking on more challenging roles than one would expect from a guy who could just enter cruise control for the next five years if he wanted (*cough* Ryan Reynolds *cough*).

Despite Bradley’s best efforts the centre-piece of the film is shaped like Jennifer Lawrence. The new front runner for next February’s Best Actress Oscar is impossible to take your eyes off. It’s become a cliché to discuss actors “doing crazy” in order to snatch a few awards, but Lawrence’s performance here is so subtly detailed, derailed and natural that you find yourself wondering how the 22-year-old can top this and her work in Winter’s Bone. The fact she seems to have found a balance between smaller pictures like this and being a centre-piece of two huge Hollywood franchises (The Hungry Hippo Games and X-Men) is to be seriously admired.

| o | – Meet the parents

A quick word for three of the supporting players. Incredibly it has been 15 years since Chris Tucker was in a film without the words “rush” or “hour” in the title and on the strength of his small “fellow patient” role here, you realise that it may well now be OK to admit that it’s time we had more Chris Tucker in our lives. Who would have said that a decade ago… Weaver’s American accent and awesome hair-do holds up well and she’s a perfect foil for Robert De Niro’s bookmaking Daddy.

As film fans and wannabe-critics we spend a lot of time ripping apart modern day De Niro for taking a lot of “easy” parts but a quick look through his recent filmography actually reveals a constant need to challenge himself. He will turn 70 next year and shows no signs of slowing down with six films on the slate for 2013. If you can forget about “ROBERT DE NIRO – he who re-defined acting in the 70s and 80s” for a moment, you will take a lot from his trying, fatherly presence on screen. Expect him to be nominated for best supporting actor next year and with the Academy being renowned for sentimentality, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take home the top prize even when up against a ridiculously crowded field of names like Seymour-Hoffman, Goodman, Arkin and Lee Jones.

Silver Linings Playbook is a distinctly American picture, with NFL Sundays being the centre-piece of the week. Whether you know about the Philadelphia Eagles or DeSean Jackson is irrelevant though with football simply acting as a device to bring a family together. Things do get a little schmaltzy at times (there are dance numbers and montages, shock horror) and those with an aversion to sentimentality and happy endings should avoid at all costs. However it’s that chaotic, central relationship between Pat and Tiffany that blends the fast-talking screwball comedies of the 1950s with Nora Ephron’s rom-coms of the 1990s that will have fans returning to the film time and time again. WELL DONE D.O.R.

USA  /  Directed By: David O. Russell  /  Written By: David O. Russell  /  Starring:  Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker  /  122min  /   Comedy, Drama   /  Release: 21 November 2012 (UK/Ireland/US/Canada)