BY MICHELLE MEDFORD AND EMILY GAGNE
After months of major hype (hello, TIFF People’s Choice Award!), David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook finally hit theatres this week. In our first ever SHE SAID/SHE SAID post, Emily and Michelle sound off on the touchdown of a “rom-dram,” which has Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper playing two lost souls who find themselves caught up in each other’s mucked up, Stevie Wonder-set lives (and running schedules).
LET’S CALL IT A ROM-DRAM
E: As optimistic as the title sounds, this isn’t quite a light-hearted, perfectly rounded romance. The main characters, Bradley Cooper’s bipolar and lovesick former teacher Pat and Jennifer Lawrence’s widowed wannabe dancer Tiffany, are both pretty rough around the edges, making their moves towards each other awkward and slightly painful. They’ve got to maneuver around each other’s emotionally visible bruises and, quite frankly, they’re not super great at it. The result is like the dance that they end up working on together (Tiff says she’ll get a letter past Pat’s restraining order and in the hands of his wife, if he promises to be her partner for an upcoming competition), messy and full of toe-stepping. It’s real, it’s funny and it’s so much more interesting than any rom-com pairing I’ve seen all year.
M: For me, this film strikes the perfect balance between comedy, drama and romance. Its genuinely funny moments don’t undermine its serious narrative about one guy’s struggle with mental illness, and its romantic moments are far from cheeseball. Nothing goes neglected and we’re able to take away a meaningful, honest and ultimately real story about two people who naturally patch each other up.
HANGIN’ WITH MR. COOPER
E: Before I watched this flick, my opinion of Bradley Cooper was not a particularly high one. Sure, he was appealing to the eye, but his choices in films were quite flimsy, giving him little to do other than run away from bad guys and flash his abs. Having now seen him play Pat, I feel like a real jerk. He is so ragged and raw in this flick, seemingly unafraid to be unhinged and somewhat unlikeable. All that Hangover douchebag smarm is gone, and in its place is a relatable, emotionally damaged guy that doesn’t need to take his shirt off (or, in this particular case, his sweat-soaked runner’s garbage bag) to keep you interested.
I know a lot of people are going to go on and on about Lawrence’s performance here, but I think what Cooper has shown us is much more significant. Anyone who has seen Winter’s Bone shouldn’t be surprised to seethe Oscar nominee exceeding expectations again. This is Cooper’s breakthrough however, the start of what I’m hoping will be a career stocked full of not-so-stock characters and sans explosions.
M: This is Bradley Cooper like you’ve never seen him, and I mean that in the best of ways. Like Emily says, his track record’s mostly comprised of comedy hits and misses, a couple forgettable action flicks and complete horror failures. It seemed in the past that his performances were nothing worth talking about, but after this film, I feel like he’s just constantly been dealt bad hands. For once, we see his potential. His character’s real and broken, but through it all, he’s still so charming. If he can snag more films like this with great writing, I’m sure he’s got even more up his sleeve.
O. RUSSELL ODDITIES
E: I laughed with Pat a lot while watching this, particularly when he went on a rant about the ending of A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway: what a cynical jerk!). But the best joke of all was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it one courtesy of Russell. As Tiff and Pat walk past a movie theatre at one point, the marquee displays the name of a certain awful horror movie Cooper once starred in. It’s a perfect in joke for movie buffs and really takes the edge off the somewhat intense scene that follows.
M: Guess who’s a White Stripes fan! David O. Russell. With an amazing soundtrack comprised of his personal faves, it’s tough for White Stripes megafans, like us gals, not to nerd out along with him, especially when he chose to go with what we call “the classics” from their earlier albums. He also throws in some Led Zeppelin, Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and whole lot of other great stuff.
Switching to a completely unrelated reference, who else loved seeing Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘s Mr. Maholtra (Anupam Kher) as the doc?
COULD ‘SILVER’ GO FOR GOLD?
M: It’s this year’s The Descendants. By that I mean it has a good shot at Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay, and although it will likely get a Best Picture nom, it’s not going to take it. As far as the adaptation goes, it might only lose at the hands of Les Misérables. However, I don’t even feel it has a real shot at Best Picture. It’s a dramedy, and although it’s got all the right elements in all the right places, comedies rarely win. In over 80 years, you can still count on your fingers the number of time comedies have taken the top prize.
E: I’m with Michelle. While I would love to see this go home with Best Picture gold, it’s just going to walk away with a nod. However, if history does really repeat itself, I could be totally wrong — some of the most recent TIFF People’s Choice Award winners have gone on to win the Academy’s biggest prize, including Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. Still, I think it has a better chance in the Lead Actor and Actress categories. Expect both Lawrence and Cooper to get noms, and Cooper to (possibly) win a prize. I could also see Robert DeNiro being added to the Supporting Actor race for playing Pat’s football-betting pops.
THE FINAL GRADES ARE IN
E: With a sincere, yet subtly funny script and seriously stellar acting, it’s the best rom-dram of the year, if not one of the best movies overall.
M: This film was so much more than I was expecting. It was sweet and quirky, yet honest and moving. For a movie I said no to at TIFF, it just might be my favourite of the year.
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