Silver Linings Playbook is surprisingly one of the year’s best!

Why surprising?  Because it looks like a typical romantic comedy, yet with a sharp, intelligent script written by director David O. Russell and fine, award-worthy performances you end up with a beautifully funny, honest look at the human condition.

Russell has become a master of subtlety and realism.  Like in The Fighter, he puts very non-Hollywood characters on the screen.  These are real people.  Broken, vulnerable, strong, generous, manipulating, etc-etc.  This is what life looks like–messy.

And although some may argue that his direction is little more than “point and shoot”, they’re missing his careful craft.  The decisions Russell makes are the reason this does not fall into the typical rom-com formula.  He is not afraid to linger on the ugly stuff and he knows how to build characters.  As someone who has first hand knowledge of mental illness, I appreciated how Russell handled the subject–he never turns it into melodrama or theatrics.  Well done.  Silver Linings Playbook is perfectly written and directed–Russell deserves any and all accolades heading his way and he may have, again, guided actors to award glory.

Let’s start with Bradley Cooper.  He is a revelation.  I’ve liked him since Alias (Will Tippin  shout out!) and have enjoyed following his career, but this is the fulfillment of his potential.  I knew he had it in him! Cooper plays a man, who is NOT a catch–he is tormented and scarred and you still want to cheer for him.  That is largely due to Cooper’s charm.  This guy is a star.

And now for the lovely Jennifer Lawrence.  WOW!  She is incredible.  She blew me away in Winter’s Bone and I knew then, that she was a force to be reckoned with–boy, I was right.  There are several scenes that she had me spellbound.  It’s amazing that someone who is so young can emote such strength and confidence that is also laced with pain and longing.  This girl is a star.

Add an amazing supporting cast–Robert De Niro (best performance in a while), Jackie Weaver (not evil this time, but still awesome), Chris Tucker (he can act!?) and two great character actors that get some well deserved screen time–Anupam Kher and John Ortiz–and you have a strong assemble that only enhances the story.

I can go on and on–but you know what I am going to say–I want to enjoy this all on your own.  You are in for a wonderful slice of life–you will laugh and cry and hopefully learn something from the experience.

Silver Linings Playbook Official Movie Trailer [HD] – YouTube

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The Hunger Games does not disappoint! Whew! Thank goodness!

I was worried. Hopeful, but still worried. Thankfully, my fears were laid to rest. The Hunger Games was AWESOME!  They captured the essence of the book, left every major part intact and they added new, additional material that made the narrative even more effective–nicely done, Hollywood, nicely done indeed!

We all know that Hollywood has been known for ruining strong source material before and so, I was rightfully concerned. I was encouraged by a few things: I like writer/director Gary Ross, he is known for creating believable characters in his films and he was working closely with source writer Suzanne Collins, which was encouraging and a good sign.  Then we had Jennifer Lawrence, who is very talented and fit the image of Katniss that I had created in my mind. Add Josh Hutcherson, who I believe is underrated and will have a big future and Woody Harrelson, who is brilliant and I dare say I was a little excited. Finally, the first trailer impressed me (and motivated me to read Collin’s Trilogy, which I loved!).  And all though there were many reasons to be excited, that still did not guarantee a success. 

Well, they did it!  The Hunger Games delivers on all of its potential and then some! 

Ross was able to take his time and introduce all the characters and set up the world properly (as well as allude to the future installments).  Lawrence and Hutcherson were amazing!  Each embodied the spirit of Katniss and Peeta and yes, Harrelson continues his brilliance.  Also add the ever-entertaining Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks (who was the perfect Effie!), Donald Sutherland (a convincing villain) and the unexpected Lenny Kravitz (who was lovely as Cinna!) and you have a great cast of excellent actors!

Of course the stand out is Lawrence.  She carries this film on her shoulders. At this point of the story she is the primary player and Lawrence is able to infuse Katniss with strength and determination, as well a vulnerability and uncertainty.  Absolutely wonderful!  There is a scene in which she is trembling with fear and my heart went out to her–this young woman is going to have a long and brilliant career.

Another great thing is that they successfully created the world of Panem, from the lush forest and poverty of the districts to the cold beauty of the Capital.  And The Game arena was just as I imagined.  The special effects were perfect–from the critters to death announcements.  It is always fun when you get to see what has played out in your mind come to life! 

I have heard some complainants about the level of violence and/or the lack of violence. Here I will have to side with the PG-13 rating.  Yes, it would have been nice to see more gore (like in the books) but I think it would have excluded too much of the target audience. I thought it was just enough–sometimes I think it is more disturbing to leave it to your imagination. 

 

The other negative remark I have heard has been about the “love triangle” situation.  First, let me state that the book does a better job of clarifying Katniss’ intentions towards Peeta (she is playing “the game” of love, to get positive response, which leads to help from the sponsors, in order to survive), but the film does hint at this–you just have to be paying attention.  One of the things I love about Katniss is her clear focus on survival–she will do anything to protect her family and she lets nothing stand it the way of that.  The “love triangle” is not a motivating factor in anything that she does.  Love grows naturally, slowly and understandably so with time, but it is NOT and should not be the main selling point of this narrative.

I will end by saying that I went with my man-friend, who has yet to read the novels, and he was completely impressed with the film and the world he was introduced to.  He stated that it was intelligent, creative and engrossing.  Now, he is going to read the books, (that up to this point he has been hesitant to read because of their Young Adult status). YES!  Hooked!  Welcome to club, my friend!

As you all know the film is a hit! YAY!  And everyone has signed up to finish the trilogy.  So, next up? Catching Fire.  Now the only question left is: How am I suppose to survive until November of 2013??