On paper, I am supposed to hate Silver Linings Playbook with every fiber of my being. It's a quirky romantic comedy, starring actors who became famous in blockbusters (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) trying to prove their acting chops by playing wounded, slightly daffy characters. There's a bunch of sappy side plots, too — a once-distant father who just wants to be close to his son, an Indian psychiatrist who's a rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan, a meth-head with a heart of gold. I should hate all of them. The plot hinges on a dancing competition, for chrissake. Even writing it down now, after having seen the film, I'm stunned that I didn't flee the theater. I'm still kind of amazed. How is it possible that I loved this movie?
Part of the answer has to be the acting. Screw Lincoln. This movie is easily the best ensemble performance of the year. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence both fully acquit themselves in roles that could easily have become unbearably grating. Robert De Niro plays an Italian-American father without the New York bluster, and it is one of my favorite of his performances, period. He's ground down and confused and tender and not tough at all. At the Toronto Film Festival, where this movie won the people's choice award, often handed out to Oscar sleepers like Slumdog Millionaire, the general consensus was that De Niro deserved Best Supporting Actor for his performance. It's a reasonable possibility. This movie also sees the return of Chris Tucker, in a sadly miniscule part, as the aforementioned meth-head with a heart of gold. The moment he appears onscreen, all you want to do is see more of him. Quentin Tarantino has recently claimed that he's only going to make three more movies. We can only hope that one of the three is set aside for Tucker. Robert De Niro doesn't get upstaged that often onscreen. Chris Tucker does it to him twice in this movie.