Monday, February 18, 2013

Too-cute dysfunction on two! Hut one! Hut two!: "Silver Linings Playbook"

When you think about it, the co-mingling of Sack Lodge and young Mystique was never going to be pretty.

The Light of My Life and I managed to take in this Oscar contender a few weeks back, opting for a romantic sort-of comedy over two-and-a-half hours of Angry Abe or us screaming "In the name of all that is holy, hold the damn camera still while you're killing bin Laden!" And it was a good choice, between the feel-good story and the solid cast. Plus, dude wears trash bags most of the movie.

Our story has Mr. Limitless (Bradley Cooper) going home from a mental institution and determined to get his life and his wife back after a rather nasty episode of adultery and violence. He lives with his dad (Robert De Niro) and mom (no-clue-but-still-nominated-for-an-Oscar). While he endures fits and starts in getting his sh!t together, he comes across his buddy's sister-in-law: easy-on-the-eyes Jennifer Lawrence, leaving both the backwoods of "Winter's Bone" and tomboy action of "The Hunger Games" behind to do her best recovering-slut bit.

And that's about it ... two mixed-up souls finding each other and figuring out if this is going to be "a thing." Sure, he still wants to get back with his wife, and seems single-minded about it. And sure, she wants to dance, dance, dance, and makes him help her with that. But you *know* from the moment these two crazy kids -- er, bad choice of words -- meet, it's all about what happens to them. Or rather, with them. Or between them. OK, it's just about them, got it?

Simple as this may seem, "Playbook" has a few things going for it. One is director David O. Russell, who caught our attention nearly 20 years ago with "Spanking the Monkey" and has been mostly consistent since then; I thought "I Heart Huckabees" was a mess, but "Flirting With Disaster," "Three Kings" and "The Fighter" all are solid in their own ways.

Second, we have a nice supporting cast - not just De Niro and the woman who plays his wife, but Chris Tucker as Cooper's fellow institutionalized and the Indian dude who played Cooper's shrink. Plus we get some nice smaller roles from Julia Stiles as Lawrence's sister and Dash Mihok as the Philly cop keeping tabs on Cooper.

And third, we have a couple of pretty good leads. I won't lie ... Cooper and Lawrence are both too pretty for these roles. Yes, we have constant reminders that Cooper's character used to be fat. And I guess all the eye makeup Lawrence wears could make her insecurity more real. But no ... these two look *good*, and that takes the sympathy quotient down a notch.

Good looks aside, both are quite convincing. Cooper does a good job of sticking to the bipolar thing and not having a filter. His natural charm and bravado are somehow converted to non-malicious bluntness, but it generally works. That pales compared with Lawrence, though, who continues her bid to be The Sh!t among young actresses. Not even 23, she adds this to her breakthrough in "Bone" and perfectly fine showings in "Games" and "X-Men: First Class" for a nice body of work at such a young age.

"Bone" still may be the more impressive performance overall, but there were a couple of times in "Playbook" when Lawrence put it all out there. These weren't the funny times -- which were funny, indeed -- but rather the moments of anger and agony. You can see the anguish in her face and the terror she felt in thinking it all could slip away. It was pretty powerful, and you know I don't go for this kind of stuff that much.

In short, an awkwardly entertaining drama, complete with broken windows, football superstitions and a hilarious dance number. Not the best picture of 2012, but something to put a little warmth in your heart. Unless you're a Giants fan, a$$hole.