Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2012. The Weinstein Company. Screenplay by David O. Russell, based on the novel by Matthew Quick. Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi. Produced by Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon. Music by Danny Elfman. Production Design by Judy Becker. Costume Design by Mark Bridges. Film Editing by Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers. Academy Awards 2012. American Film Institute 2012. Golden Globe Awards 2012. Gotham Awards 2012. Independent Spirit Awards 2012. New York Film Critics Awards 2012. Toronto International Film Festival 2012. Washington Film Critics Awards 2012.
Bradley Cooper, in his finest performance yet, is released from a mental institution on the signature of his mother (Jacki Weaver), despite the fact that she is not sure he is as recovered as he says he is. Returning to his family home in Philadelphia with mom and dad (Robert De Niro), Cooper struggles to keep his temper even while dealing with the disappointment that put him away in the first place. Thankfully, an equally unstable young woman (Jennifer Lawrence, also outstanding) comes along and meets his erratic verbal diarrhea with her own personal gusto, and the two of them team up against the world in an effort to beat the stigma of perceived mental instability with which they are constantly judged. What should be a cloying and innocuous movie, given that it is a romantic comedy about “quirky” people that ends in a dance competition, is actually a godsend thanks to its having the lean, efficient genius of David O. Russell behind it. Russell isn’t at the top of his game here, it’s not as profound a movie as The Fighter or Three Kings, and he doesn’t avoid the pitfalls of the genre either (if all “crazy” people were this gorgeous I’d be going on speed dates at the nearest mental hospital). His take on romantic comedy, however, makes you wish no one else would ever make a romantic comedy ever again, and he is wise to force Cooper to rely on more than just his bright blue eyes to sell his character, while Lawrence’s gravity and deliciously salty voice make her far more than the “manic pixie dream girl” that her character threatens to become at every turn. The humour of the main character’s constant inability to keep his impolite thoughts to himself, combined with smart dialogue and emotionally explosive situations that truly capture both characters’ frustrations, pit the film somewhere between Preston Sturges and Spike Lee; when it comes time for harmonious resolution, it wraps up a bit too neatly but, given how real these characters have become to you, not in a way that is trite or superficial. All the performances are outstanding, particularly the leads, but Weaver and De Niro definitely hold their own in terrific support.