Silver Linings Playbook is a rare romantic comedy, not just because it’s good, but also because it works beyond the confines of the genre. Bradley Cooper plays a bi-polar man trying to get his life back together while surrounded by family and friends who are equally dysfunctional. Cooper is the best thing in the movie. He presents his conditions without berating us with quirks. It’s a warm and funny performance. The movie works because writer/director David O. Russell is great at elevating material past the clichés. He creates films with humanity and an easy naturalness.
Jennifer Lawrence is strained at first playing the eventual love interest, but she gets better and turns in a fine performance. The film takes a turn away from reality and toward Hollywood in the last act. The bridging scene is a mess of stilted dialogue and forced gestures, but by the time the film reaches the super-mega-happy ending I didn’t mind. It doesn’t all work, and it’s not the best thing I saw all year, but it works better than it has any right to, and that’s saying something.
I absolutely loved Django Unchained. It’s bloody, it’s funny, the soundtrack kicks all kinds of ass, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Jamie Foxx plays the recently freed slave Django and Christoph Waltz plays the man who freed him, and his partner in crime, Dr. King. The first half of the film is a buddy picture between these two and it’s sensational. Later, Django and Dr. King conspire to rescue Django’s wife from a vicious plantation run by Calvin Candie played with evil decadence by Leonardo DiCaprio.
This part of the film is more of a chamber piece with small glances and precise words creating all the tension. It’s full of surprises and Samuel L. Jackson playing the smarter than he seems Stephen is one of them. The film is loaded with great performances, my favorite being Waltz. The man chews into Tarantino’s glorious dialogue with charm and gusto. There’s a terrible cameo from Tarantino himself that’s way too distracting and without long time editor Sally Menke it’s his shaggiest film. But when something is this great, I don’t mind the little bumps in the road. Don’t be fooled by all the rollicking fun either. Tarantino has laced his film with provoking commentary and hidden layers that will reward multiple viewings. It will endure long after the blood has dried.