Year after year, I find myself complaining about the state of love stories in the movies. From those damn “Twilight” pictures to the countless vehicles starring the showboating Katherine Heigl, inspired romance has become difficult to come by in this day and age. 2012 however, has exhibited an unexpected change of pace in the romance department. With “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Rudy Sparks,” “The Sessions,” “Hope Springs” and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” this has proven to be a reassuring year for movies about unlikely people coming together and having a meaningful connection. Even several major action blockbusters, such as “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Looper” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” have managed to incorporate smart, believable relationships that do not just feel tacked on.
My favorite love story of the year is still the wonderful “Moonrise Kingdom.” A close runner up though, would have to be David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” a magnetic adaptation of the novel by Matthew Quick. The film takes two of the most complicated, imperfect and uncomfortable individuals imaginable and fashions a manic romantic dramedy that’s full of laughs, integrity, and immeasurable performances from the leads. It’s just another example of why 2012 deserves to be remembered as the year of passions.
Bradley Cooper gives the most complete performance of his life as Pat Solitano, who realizes that he suffers from a bipolar disorder upon discovering his wife, Nikki, in the shower with another man. After almost beating the man to death and spending some time in the cuckoo’s nest, Pat is released into the custody of his parents. Jacki Weaver is wonderful as Pat’s accommodating mother, as is Robert De Niro as his football-obsessed, superstitious father. Pat’s support team also includes Anupam Kher as his psychiatrist, a toned down Chris Tucker as a fellow mental patient, and John Ortiz and Julia Stiles as his best friends. They’re all unprepared for just how unstable Pat has become though. Simply reading the downer ending to Hemmingway’s “A Farwell to Arms” is enough to set this guy off. The only thing driving Pat to get better is the possibility that Nikki will get back with him, which is highly unlikely since she filed a restraining order.
At only 22 years of age, Jennifer Lawrence has merited an Oscar nomination for “Winter’s Bone” and brought one of the most famous literary characters of recent years to life in “The Hunger Games.” “Silver Linings Playbook” really takes off when Lawrence storms on the screen as Tiffany, an equally mentally uneven girl with a dead husband and a notorious reputation for sleeping with everyone in her office. Lawrence is fearless without being tasteless, sexy without being trashy and idiosyncratic without being over-the-top in what just might be the pinnacle of her already remarkable career. Despite their age difference, Pat and Tiffany’s common craziness results in them finding a compatible other. They are further brought together when Tiffany convinces Pat to enter a dance contest with her in exchange for delivering a letter to Nikki.
There are moments in “Silver Linings Playbook” that come off as almost too raw and passages of dialog that go on for a tad too long. These nuisances are few though and hardly deduct from everything that is irrefutably right with the film. Russell has made an exquisite picture about coping with mental illness and moving on to greater things in life. Lawrence principally sticks out as a revelation of talent, verifying more than ever that she is a star well worthy of her achieved acclaim. Will Lawrence’s star status reach new heights with an Academy Award for Best Actress in February? I wouldn’t at all be surprised.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com
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