SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (M)(122 min)
Directed by David O Russell. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro.
Silver Linings Playbook is the new film from director David O Russell. Russell's last was The Fighter, which was one of the very best dramas I saw in 2011.
Go back further on Russell's CV and you'll find Three Kings and Spanking the Monkey.
Russell is a proven hand at taking a formulaic idea, and then turning in a film that flirts with subversiveness, simply by refusing to allow his actors to coast through their respective roles.
Russell works his actors legendarily hard, shooting takes to the point of exhaustion, and the results follow.
Silver Linings Playbook could easily have slipped into being not much more than the romantic comedy the posters promise, but Russell's choices, and the performances, drag it clear of the swamp.
Bradley Cooper is Pat. He is bipolar. Newly de-institutionalised, Pat is back home with mum and dad, and obsessively plotting how to win his wife back.
We know he's on a Quixotic hiding to nothing, and we occasionally fear for the people around him, but Cooper keeps Pat just this side of sympathetic, even while ripping out a fairly authentic portrayal of what manic behaviour looks like in a family home.
Next to Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence is Tiffany. She's the young widow of an old friend, and she will be clearly be the one to right Pat's ship, and to guide him into calmer waters.
But, Tiffany is a girl prone to very dark turn of mind, and it might be that she needs saving just as much as her hunky new dance partner.
So its boy meets girl, but played out by genuinely damaged people, rather than just the usual collection of self-obsessed whingers who generally populate the genre.
Forgiving Silver Linings Playbook the hastily tacked on third act, in which everything comes good with indecent and unbelievable speed, I liked the film a great deal.
And a special note for Robert DeNiro fans. There's a few moments down the back of Silver Linings Playback that'll remind you why he's still regarded as a great actor. God knows it's been a while.
- © Fairfax NZ News