10 December 2012

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Mr. Cooper's work here is nothing short of astounding. Complemented by Messrs. Cassidy and Struthers' excellent pacing, the acting picks up momentum in fits and starts as well as possesses this uncanny evenness that is redolent of the ideal realization of the character as adapted by Mr. Russell. Truly, Mr. Cooper here is at his finest as ever and now retroactively may be worthy of having already appeared on Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio. Perhaps it was working with the experienced Mr. DeNiro, here also surprisingly delivering a compellingly whole character after a series of fragmented caricatures like the oft cited Jack Byrnes from the execrable Meet the [x] series, in not only this film but also their previous Limitless (2011), that helped refine Mr. Cooper's craft to the extent that it achieved the nuanced complexity of a truly leading man. Perhaps otherwise it was simply the fullness of time. Whatever the reason, I applaud Mr. Cooper and, though I find it hard still to hold him against the apparently indomitable Mr. Day-Lewis this year, I have now serious hopes for his future roles.
Ms. Lawrence too does well. However, her acting style is markedly different from Mr. Cooper's here. Whereas he clearly digs into the piece and works his character from its natural core, Ms. Lawrence has blueprinted her schema and works her character from a control room - technically en pointe but still once removed. I wanted to believe her more strongly than I did, as strongly as I believed him in the subtleties of his gestures and furrows and frowns, but I could not do so. Truly she was fine, acting at a level well above the standard set this year by the average leading lady. However, in comparison with Mr. Cooper and Mr. DeNiro - not to mention Ms. Streep already in her category - she had only technical finesse where she should have had original emotion. Though not in her category, Ms. Field in Lincoln too possessed this shyness from acuity in her own performance; yet there, for the tenor of the piece, the shyness worked. With Mr. Russell's patently far less staid film, the shyness doesn't cohere.
As for Mr. Russell himself, this work is far and away an improvement on narrating through a particular subculture akin to that of his last film, The Fighter (2010). Here he successfully found the thread of this story and stripped away all the extraneous fibers that otherwise could have bound and confused it within a thicker pattern of ideas, as there did occur in The Fighter. Here he thus has a focus and a chemistry that together matched direction and dynamics to crackle, waver, and flare with hypnotic passion like the first good fire in a new hearth. Making so many solid choices, he nourished the potential of his own adapted screenplay and enabled it to be a simple but not simplistic, readable but not risible, engaging but not contentious meditation of how people make sense of the sequences of events that they observe in their lives while they are still participating in continuing those sequences (hopefully) to desired ends. As Mr. Spielberg did well in Lincoln, Mr. Russell does well here; the little everyday affections complement the aspired notion with thorough personality, entrenched deeply and intricately in others.

Grade: A-, charming.

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