For a while it seemed like I would never get to see this movie in the theatre. Every time I thought I had time something would come up. But I finally made it and glad I did. What an excellent movie.
When I first read about this movie it sounded unremarkable. A love story between two people that have issues is not a plot that makes you take notice. It doesn't have big special effects, it is not about a famous person or incident, and it is based on a book that I have never heard of. The movie didn't seem like it would be anything special. But what it delivers is something emotional with great performances.
The plot sounds simplistic enough boy with issues meets girl with issues and they fall in love. But there is a lot going on in the movie. After being sentenced for eight months in a mental hospital for nearly beating his wife’s lover to death Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released into the care of his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro). While in the hospital he developed a plan to win his wife back by getting fit and always looking for the silver linings in life. At a dinner with his friends one night he meets a girl Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has issues of her own. The two get off to a rocky start but end up forming a bit of a dysfunctional friendship. Pat is still obsessing over his wife and wants to patch things up with her. Tiffany is trying to get over her husband who died in an accident that she blames herself for. Tiffany manages to manipulate Pat into becoming her dance partner but neither one is able to see the love that is forming between them and there are constant obstacles they must overcome. What sets this movie apart from other romantic movies is the realness of it. Love isn’t easy and sometimes it's messy.
I found myself having a hard time getting into the movie at first and I wasn’t sure where it was going. But as soon as we are introduced to Tiffany the movie really sucked me in. Jennifer Lawrence gives a complexity to Tiffany that is just amazing. She is both self-confident and vulnerable. She knows what she wants but feels she needs to manipulate people to get it. Bradley Cooper is equally good. We feel Pat's struggle with trying to figure out how he fits into this new post marriage world. Robert De Niro gives a great subtle performance as Pat Sr. who has some OCD issues of his own that he focuses on football.
David O. Russell who wrote and directed the movie did a fantastic job at getting everything to feel real and not forced. Nothing is over the top. Every time Pat has an incident it is a slow build up and not just a sudden outburst. We really get to feel his struggle leading up to it and his struggle dealing with the aftermath.
What I love about this movie is the way it deals with mental illness. Pat is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and must come to grips with the disease. It is not glossed over nor is it sensationalized. Pat must go to a therapist and after trying to control his emotions on his own he realizes his medication does help. Probably the most honest movie about mental illness since Ordinary People. As someone who has struggled with depression it is nice to see a movie that gets it right.
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars. Definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite romantic comedies. Feels genuine and has great performances with the stand out being Jennifer Lawrence. Bradley Cooper gives the best performance of his career so far.