Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 25th December, 2013 (USA)
Time : 122 minutes
Director & Writer : David O Russell (based on the book by Matthew Quick); Music : Danny Elfman
Starring : Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok, Brea Bee
The first time Brad Cooper and Jen Lawrence meet, they swap notes on the different medicines they’re taking, for various psychological disorders. The next time, she ambushes him while he’s going for a run and chases him around a few blocks while he begs to be left alone. On another occasion they go out to a diner and he orders Raisin Bran cereal with milk (a bit taken aback by his order, she asks for tea) because he doesn’t want it to look like a date. However, I wouldn’t classify the film as a romance, definitely not a chick-flick. Its that kind of a movie…
I’m not clear on the exact terminology of what Brad is in therapy for, anger management is a part of it and I vaguely remember words like bi-polar and schizophrenia being tossed around, possibly even together. He basically snapped when he came home early one day and found his wife (an English teacher) in the shower with the history teacher. He, however, once released from therapy, only wants to get back with her. But she has a restraining order against him.
Jen has also been in trouble. Has lost her husband, a cop, and decided to cope with it by sleeping with as many people as possible. Including everyone at her office, which leads to her being fired.
But the film is not just about them. Both stay with their parents. Brad has a lovely mother and a dominating, eccentric father, who has a restraining order against going to his beloved Eagles stadium. Is currently running an illegal book-making operation. And has a superstition that his son is lucky for the Eagles, so wants his son to be sitting with him whenever the Eagles are playing.
Jen’s parents are just trying to protect her as best as they can. She lives in an outhouse at the back. Where she can sleep with anyone at night as long they don’t keep the lights on.
At one level, it’s a slow moving film about these whacky yet eminently relate-able people. There is Anupam Kher, Brad’s psychiatrist. There is John Ortiz, Brad’s friend, who is struggling to cope with work, the depression, his wife, a new baby, the sheer pressure of it all. His wife, Julia Stiles, is a bit of a diva. And is also Jen’s sister. And, to round up the picture, there is Dash, the neighbourhood police officer in charge of Brad, who is quick to land up at the first sign of trouble.
At another, and a possibly more enjoyable level, I found it a fascinating film about how tough we make life for people who show any sign of deviant behavior. How quickly we can call the cops if there are raised voices at a neighbours. The insensitivity that makes us want to go and video them while they are in trouble. We want them to behave, we want them to take medicines that cloud their thinking, make mini-zombies out of them, so that they don’t create trouble. We want them to deal with their hurt / grief in ways they are possibly not strong enough to do.
I really enjoyed the film and the performances. Anupam Kher is engaging, it was so nice to see him in a good, meaty role. Jennifer Lawrence shows she is more than just a pretty face, displaying love, hurt, rejection and vulnerability in the right doses. Bradley Cooper impressed a lot, despite being completely stripped of his sex appeal. Shown running in slacks and a hoodie with a garbage bag on top (so that he sweats), turns up for dinner wearing a football jersey. Its that kind of a movie.
PS : Special Mention of the Ernest Hemmingway incident. Made the movie come alive for me…