Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Review

David O. Russell is a director that I first discovered with 2010’s great movie, The Fighter. With that movie he took a very simple story that we’ve all heard before, yet he made it seem fresh because of well-written dialogue and strong performances. It was an emotional roller coaster that put a completely different spin on the boxer down-on-his-luck story.

With Silver Linings Playbook Russell did something similar. We have what appears to be a very simple story about a man trying come back to society after some mental issues, and how his path collides with a girl and both of their lives change as a result. But again, and even more so than with The Fighter, he completely turns the formula on its head, giving us real situations with real characters that convey real emotion. These are situations that are so believable and so well-done that it’s nearly impossible to not connect with them.

The story follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) who has bi-polar disorder. He has just been released from a mental health facility after 8 months of treatment and he truly believes that he is all better. He is released to the care of his parents Pat Sr. and Dolores (played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and the relationship here is very interesting. Pat Sr. is cautious about his son and doesn’t completely believe that he is 100% better (this goes back to prior events that I won’t delve into) but Dolores is very loving and just wants everything to be fine and back to normal.

However, Pat Jr. is instantly met with bad news, as he learns that his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) has moved away and his family is going through some hard times. The film regularly returns to scenes where Pat is talking with his therapist Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher) about the incident that resulted in him being taken away. Basically, he caught his wife in the shower with another man, and they had the stereo on playing Pat and Nikki’s wedding song, “My Cherie Amour”. This sets him off and he beats the man in a fit of rage.

The true change for Pat comes when he meets Tiffany(Jennifer Lawrence). She is another person who is coming off of a very serious situation (her husband was killed) and the two of them are able to connect, as a result. However, Pat is still holding on to hope that he can get back to Nikki, so even though he really likes Tiffany, he is holding himself back. This is where you really feel for Tiffany’s character because she is completely committed to Pat with not only helping him but loving him and there is a good chance that she will not even have those feelings reciprocated.

Without question, the thing that makes this movie work so well is the acting. Across the board you are given phenomenal performances, with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro all being nominated for acting Oscars. Bradley Cooper was a big risk and I was very hesitant in thinking that he could pull off a role like this, but he was terrific. He towed the line of behaving regularly to slowly submitting to a bi-polar attack with such poise and nuance that really makes you believe this man is conflicted.

Jennifer Lawrence continues to knock each roll she takes out of the park and this could possibly be her best performance yet. She is a wise-ass who definitely gives a lot of comic relief to the movie, but she’s also where the most emotional parts of the movie come from. She shows so much range and command, and if there is one performance that deserves an Oscar over all the others it is this one.

Lastly, Robert De Niro comes out of nowhere and finds himself in a very good role in which he gives a – wait for it – great performance! He plays a man who is old-fashioned and tough but deep down he really just wants to reconnect with his son because he feels he didn’t give him as much love as he could have when he was younger. Welcome back, Bob!

On a less serious note; David O. Russell continues to put together fantastic soundtracks for his films. With The Fighter he had Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones to name a few. This time around we’re given more Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and two White Stripes songs. I want to emphasize the White Stripes songs, particularly the second one. The song is “Fell In Love With A Girl”, and I won’t spoil it but I will say that the way Russell incorporated it into the film was fantastic. I usually don’t pay much attention to soundtracks of films, but he has done an awesome job with them recently.

By this point, I am now anxiously awaiting whatever David O. Russell does next, because he has impressed the hell out of me with his last two movies. He is a master at taking familiar situations and breathing completely new life into them. Silver Linings Playbook on the surface is very familiar, but as we delve deeper to the core of the narrative we discover a story that is more realistic and emotional than most we have ever seen. This is perhaps Russell’s best film yet, and deserves all of the awards it has coming its way.

Release Date: November 16, 2012

Genres: Drama, Romance, Comedy


House at the End of the Street (2012) Review

With a movie that has such a generic title, you might expect that it would be a red herring. The Cabin in the Woods was a similar situation, and it ended up being one of my favorite horror satires of all-time. House at the End of the Street is not horror satire; in fact, it is the exact kind of movie that horror satires make fun of. However, even though the script is spotty, it still contains some characters I found to be very likeable, and a story that was interesting even if it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

The movie is a about a teenage girl named Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) that moves into a new neighborhood with her mom. They move right next to a house where a young girl murdered her parents four years ago. Her mother tells her that the drama surrounding that house allowed them to move in next door for a rather affordable price. They believe that this house at the end of the street is vacant; but the mother notices a light turn on in the house around 3 o’clock in the morning. It turns out the son of the murder victims, Ryan, still lives in the house.

Elissa is introduced to a boy that goes to her school, but quickly realizes that he is a jerk and does not want to be involved with his crowd. She is walking home from a party one night, and Ryan offers to give her a ride home. She accepts, eventually, and proceeds to ask him about the story of the murders. He tells her that his sister, Carrie-Anne, got brain damage from falling off a swing. This made her become very aggressive which led to her murdering their parents. He feels responsible because he was helping her go higher than she should have been going on the swing. She quickly learns that he is very troubled, but deep down she feels that he is a good person and she wants to help him.

If it wasn’t for Jennifer Lawrence I would not have gotten as much out of this movie as I did. She is extremely likeable and elevates the so-so dialogue so that you at least are interested in what is going on, even if you aren’t completely wowed by it. This won’t be a performance she’ll be remembered for, but it certainly is better than most horror films of this nature. I must also praise the performance of Max Thieriot, who played Ryan. He was very reserved and socially awkward, and was believable as a boy with a rough upbringing. Thieriot portrayed the emotional scars that Ryan had well, and even though he didn’t need much range, I still sympathized with his character.

This wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be. The plot isn’t anything revolutionary, but it offered enough interesting elements to keep me watching. It’s unfortunate that the movie squanders a lot of the potential the story did have, and relies on very cheap jump scares to try and rack the tension up. There was potential here for a very good horror movie, but some interesting plot points simply don’t get fleshed out enough. House at the End of the Street isn’t going to be on any year end lists, but as far as the horror genre goes, you can do a worse. Even though the execution is spotty and it isn’t very scary, I liked some of the pieces to this puzzle, even if they never fit together.

Release Date: September 25, 2012

Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery