Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell's Syrupy Sprint for Oscar

For a good hour or so, Russell’s movie is intriguing because you can’t quite figure out where it’s going – tragedy? Farce? The lead character is less than appealing on many occasions, and it seems that he could be a threat to himself or others. Cooper generally plays a ladies’ man, and with excellent reason, but here Russell does his best to keep him from being too cuddly.

Cooper, who is not a great actor but pulls off this showy role well enough to inspire discussion about a possible Oscar consideration, appears with a strange scar across his nose (sustained, he claims, in “a weight-lifting accident”), his hair closely shorn, his beard scraggly. He is frequently clad in a garbage bag (which he wears while jogging, to lose weight). He’s a woeful figure who could at any moment find himself being dragged back to the mental hospital, from which a similarly situated friend (amusingly played by a startling Chris Tucker, who has been away for a while and looks it) keeps running away.

But the contrivances start to pile up in the less nerve-wracking, somewhat saccharine second half. In order to set up a big, Little Miss Sunshine-style ending, Tiffany demands that Pat take up intensive dance training with her so she can compete in a ballroom competition around Christmas. If only Pat and Tiffany can do well in the dance contest, all will be well and Pat’s dad (who has lost a ton of money on football) will be solvent again.

Doesn’t that all sound a little too…Pat? Yes, but then again, mental illness is enough of a drag. There’s no need to be depressing about it onscreen, and the dance scenes do have spark, thanks mainly to the considerable charms of Lawrence, the glamorous Hunger Games star who also got a Best Actress nomination for playing a hillbilly in Winter’s Bone. It’s a little unfortunate that her character turns so abruptly from dark and weird to sentimental and needy, but that’s Hollywood.


Shutterstock image courtesy Gorgev

More current movie reviews from John Boot at PJ Lifestyle:

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