With Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell's is attempting to do to the romantic comedy what he did to the sports movie with The Fighter. And he is not succeeding. Think of the movie as a pumpkin. (Really, I just said that. It's been a long week. Just go with me here.) The Fighter hollowed out the cliches (they'd be the seeds, yo!) and filled up the movie pumpkin (or I guess you could also use Christian Bale's skeleton in this analogy, take your pick) with sparklers and sound effects - lively little story side-steps and character beats that made a stinky slowly rotting pumpkin feel like a world class one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern. It still was a pumpkin on the outside, of course. But what a pumpkin, ya know?
Silver Linings turns the romantic comedy into more of a pumpkin pie - or, in the vernacular of Jackie Weaver's worry-wort momma character, crabby snacks and homemades! - and, honestly, I just don't like pie. So maybe it's my problem. But it's all mushy, and it doesn't even look like a damned pumpkin anymore. You said pumpkin - I want a pumpkin!
Alright, I'm losing track of my point here. (Seriously though, fuck pies.) Russell just never really cracks the nut of the rom-com open for me, to make anything all that invigorating. Don't even get me started on the last few minutes with the happy "hey we're all great and sitting one each other's laps" montage, which is straight out of the dire hellmouth of Sarah Jessica Parker movies. I hate to load too much of it on Bradley Cooper, because I'm generally defensive of him as an on-screen presence - I tend to find him pretty charming and funny and oft sexy as hell (even if the Hangover movies that he's making so so much money off of have managed to kill that momentum, somewhat) - but I thought he was an alarmingly flaccid presence here, dragging it all down around him. I'd say he was trying to get across the dulling effect of his medication, but the moments when he was off his meds were scarcely more alive.
And I know that because he had Jennifer Lawrence standing across him, absolutely thrumming with presence and life and sexy crazy baby eyes, and knocking it outta the park. God every time the camera swerved over her big ol' baby-doll head smeared with mascara I felt my body lift off the seat and float towards the screen, and how I kept wishing she were the center of attention. Think of her as the delicious pile of fresh whipped cream on top of the pie, and I just wanted a big ol' spoonful of all her. (Eww not that way, you pervert.) But then I'd get another three minutes of Robert DeNiro yelping and my buzz would wash off again. The movie's schizophrenia, unlike The Fighter's, works against it - romance needs a deftness that it's got nowhere in its bones, even as it aches and yearns and thuds and hollers to find it.