What an amazing year we have had with movies, no? I can't remember the last time I'd seen so many of the Oscar nominees...so many films that I actually wanted to see. But it was the day of the Oscars, and this one was still on my list, so my mom, son and I raced out to see it.
It was impossible to go into the movie not knowing anything about it, there has been such an overwhelming amount of coverage and hype. There were some experts in EW that honestly felt this movie should win EVERYTHING it was nominated for (SEVEN major categories!). Best Picture. Best Director. Adapted Screenplay. Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro) and Best Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver). So. Obviously well-acted. Obviously a good flick. I walked in assuming "a smart rom-com".
For the most part, that would be correct. But there is some heft here that I didn't expect. The story centers on Pat, a man who, upon finding his wife in the shower with a co-worker, beat the man nearly to death and was hospitalized for bi-polar disorder. Now he is out with a new lease on life, determined to convince his estranged wife that he is worthy of her. It is an uphill battle. He is living at home with his hovering, nervous mother (Weaver) and obsessive-compulsive father who is completely absorbed with the Philadelphia Eagles (DeNiro). Pat's strength is tested daily, and sometimes he fails.
Enter the damaged young widow Tiffany (Lawrence) who is looking to make a connection. She is sexy and edgy, he is attracted but the wife, and they both circle each other cautiously in a haze of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. She invites him to be her dance partner in a contest, and...there you go. You can take it from there.
The plot is actually very predictable, in the way that, let's say, When Harry Met Sally is predictable, but I'm not sure I would want it any other way. Like my son said "Well, heck mom, what would you want to happen? Have Tiffany get hit by a bus?". Point taken. The film rises to a higher level because of the acting. Everybody in here, from Pat and Tiffany, to Pat's parents, to the nutty side characters (Pat's boyhood friend stifled by a baby and marriage, Pat's happy-go-lucky friend from the psych ward, Pat's Eagles-crazed shrink)...they are all a little bit messed up. But these are endearing issues that rarely go down a darkened path. It's happy nuttiness.
There are a few moments of sobriety...I think Pat's mental illness was pretty realistic. But most of the movie has a subtle tongue-in-cheek humor. Not so much laugh-out-loud, but more a light-hearted ode to the complexities of modern love. Unlike most Oscar movies, which always seem to be floating in death and angst and pain, you will walk out of this one feeling good.
4.5 out of 5 stars