Here’s a lovely picture that may have slipped by you: Silver Linings Playbook. You might have been put off by its subject matter (bipolar disorder) or scared away by its R-rating (for language mostly, I think) or just missed it because it’s on the small side. But it really is delightful — an uplifting Christmas romance of the old school, albeit dressed in modern dysfunction.
That modern-to-old-fashioned storytelling strategy seems to be something director David O. Russell developed for his last fine film, The Fighter. That one opened with half an hour of such realistically depicted familial cruelty that I nearly stopped watching — until a startling scene of grace and redemption about a third of the way through transformed the entire picture into a stand-up-and-cheer fight film of the first water.
Likewise here, Russell starts out depicting the travails of a man with bipolar disorder (played by Bradley Cooper) with searing honesty and humor — but then sets him in a love story with all the charm and style of a movie on TCM. Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (of Hunger Games fame) play a couple of self-destructive misfits, deploying all their modern acting skills to get them right. But as their characters teach each other tolerance and kindness — and learn to take their medication — the actors unleash their inner movie stars and walk into a Christmas finale with all the self-assurance of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.
It’s not just good storytelling, it’s smart movie making with a real understanding of how the medium works. Not something you see too often, I know.
Excellent supporting cast too: Robert De Niro’s great; Chris Tucker steals every scene he’s in — he had me in stitches.
If you’re going to grouse about the four-letter words and realism, don’t go. But if you like uplifting entertainment for adults, this is really good stuff. One of the better movies I’ve seen this year.