December 10, 2016

Bradley Cooper: “Silver Linings Playbook” earning raves in Toronto: Our review! – AWARDS


By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: I never thought I’d like Bradley Cooper as much as I like him in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

The actor’s been having an interesting Toronto fest. In addition to “Playbook,” he’s also the second leg of a bizarre crime-triangle crafted by Derek Cianfrance in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” But he carries David O. Russell’s new, black comedy on his jittery shoulders. It’s by far his best work, to date, and the movie absolutely would be worth seeing were he the only actor in it.

He isn’t, however. Much in the way Russell surrounded Mark Wahlberg with heavy hitters for “The Fighter,” the director lines up a formidable cast who are ready to dance with Cooper (literally, when it comes to Jennifer Lawrence).

There’s a nervous energy to Russell’s agitated and entertaining “Playbook,” an urgency to move away from wherever it happens to be lingering so it can complete a random task. It stems from its main protagonist, Patrick (Bradley Cooper) – a character who, the minute we first meet him, is trying to talk himself as well as a close friend and fellow patient put of a Baltimore mental facility. Patrick just has to go. He has unfinished business.

Everyone in Patrick’s circle has unfinished business, as well. His father (Robert De Niro) is a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan who can’t stop wagering on games (much to his bookie’s delight). Patrick even strikes up a friendship with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the similarly damaged widow of a deceased police officer. Their tentative relationship is the bedrock on which “Playbook” stands, and it’s the combustible chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence (and the fine contributions of the co-stars) that gives Russell his fuel.

Patrick’s deeply flawed, but Cooper somehow makes him likeable. We witness the crippling issues plaguing his parents (De Niro and Jacki Weaver), and simply want him to break free from their wet blanket of insecurities and succeed. His performance is all short fuses, a live wire connection that Pat actually encapsulates as “the explosion guy.” Russell matches that intensity with a frantic camera that uses deliberate movements to convey mood. And there’s a violent breakdown set to Led Zepplin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” that might be the purest dose of uncomfortable artistry that I’ve seen at Toronto so far.

“Playbook” steps out of reality from time to time in search of black, broad laughs. It’s frequently sad. The incisions it makes cut to the soul. But it’s also strangely hopeful and it hurts. Those looking for a “Silver Lining” will find it in Russell’s winning work.

My fellow Oscar bloggers seem to agree. Following the film’s world premiere at TIFF, Jeff Wells Tweeted a series of raves. HitFix joined the party by praising Lawrence and calling it a crowd-pleasing film. It sounds like Russell might be right back in the Oscar race, after his triumphant dance through the marathon session with “The Fighter.” Look out for “Playbook,” which opens wider on Nov. 21.

Read more of our exclusive Toronto coverage:
Ben Affleck’s “Argo” scores
Rian Johnson’s “Looper” reviewed
“Amour” amazes, “Rust & Bone” ultimately delivers
TIFF: The Day Before the Madness

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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