I interrupt this blog of the usual politics, foreign affairs and customary bad news for some really good news. It is called “Silver Linings Playbook” and it is a movie — an astonishing one, if I may venture an opinion. The Wall Street Journal calls it the best movie of the year, and I concur. It is highly original and a sheer delight.
OK, so what’s it about? It’s about…. Never mind that. First let me tell you about Jennifer Lawrence. She’s the female lead, and by the end of the movie I was deeply in love. It was a transient, movie thing of course, but Lawrence has the kind of pouty sex appeal of a Marilyn Monroe, only she has no drop-dead-gorgeous body, but just the sort of off-center beauty that grows as the movie progresses. The cliché that “the screen loves her” is only partially true in her case. So did I.
So, Lawrence plays the part of Tiffany and she’s … I’ll get to that soon. Meanwhile, you should know about Bradley Cooper. He was in “The Hangover,” one of those comedies that rely on updated pratfalls and such, but this time he puts in such a mature and riveting performance that you cannot see the acting. The man up there on the screen is precisely who he says he is — authentic down to his obsessive, compulsive behavior. He’s so good you can almost overlook Robert DeNiro in another masterful, brilliant performance, and Jacki Weaver, an Australian genius who I last saw in “Animal Kingdom.” In that, she was merely brilliant.
My Washington Post colleague Ann Hornaday says that this movie “serves as a textbook example of why directors matter.” She put it better than I ever could. The director (the writer, too) in this case is David O. Russell. He has taken a story about a marvelously functioning dysfunctional Philadelphia family and made it into a love story — not just a conventional boy-girl one but a mother-father one and a brother-brother one, and one between friends and last, but hardly least, the virtually erotic attachment the whole family has to the Philadelphia Eagles. I swear.
Remarkably, Russell never loses control of the material. Every one of his characters is a bit nuts but hardly insane. Not like so many movies whose end you can see from the first frame, this one just keeps going. Several times I thought the movie was about to go off the rails, but it stayed on course and ended, a trifle pat, with an enormously satisfying emotional kicker. Go see “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Now, back to the bad news.