Silver Linings Playbook
Adapted from Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, Silver Linings Playbook takes in subject matter such as mental illness, marital failure and football, and has some serious buzz thanks to director David O. Russell and his leads Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Lawrence plays the widow Tiffany, a self-described “crazy slut with a dead husband,” who strikes up a curious friendship with Pat (Cooper), recently released from a mental institution. Rounding out a very solid cast as Pat’s parents are Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.
Lawrence has become the early front-runner to win Best Actress at next year’s Oscars (TIME’s Richard Corliss notes that “The performances of these actors are reason enough to go. The reason to stay is Lawrence.”) and it certainly seems like the role of a lifetime. In the words of Variety, Lawrence “is a marvelously unstable element, daring Pat to judge her for her own past misdeeds, though she has no qualms about cutting through his defenses and attacking what she sees or doesn’t see in him.” The rest of the movie isn’t too shabby either: “In a script that never lapses into mundane or uninteresting language, the scenes between Pat and Tiffany are sculpted with an almost David Mamet-like sharpness, amplified onscreen by the intimacy and focus of Russell’s direction and the superbly harmonized lead performances,” Variety writes. The Hollywood Reporter takes a similar line, revealing that “this is a film as odd as it is charming. It brings out the best in a superlative cast led by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, both showing unexpected colors.” And returning to our Mr. Corliss, he just can’t get enough of the leading lady: “Just 21 when the movie was shot, Lawrence is that rare young actress who plays, who is, grown-up. Sullen and sultry, she lends a mature intelligence to any role.” And this role might just end up resulting in a little gold statuette.
Life of Pi
While some 3D movies push the boundaries of the format — think Avatar or Hugo — the overwhelming majority of films in the format are lazy retrofits of banal action movies, some of which are even re-releases hastily 3D-ed up to rake in some extra dough for the studios. But imagine if an original 3D film were to win, say, Best Picture at the Oscars? It may be enough to shelve that obituary for the medium after all.
There might now be a contender. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, adapted from the Man Booker Prize-winning book by Yann Martel, has been on the receiving end of some pretty good buzz. If you’re not familiar with the fantastical tale, it tells the story of a young man who has survived a shipwreck, only to find himself sharing a lifeboat with the only other survivor on the ship — a Bengal tiger.
Does the film sink or swim? According to the critics, most definitely the former. “The perfect summation of the principle powering Lee’s entire career,” raves The Guardian. “Still waters run deep.” Variety is just as poetic, noting that the movie “melds a harrowing high-seas adventure with a dreamy meditation on the very nature of storytelling,” while The Hollywood Reporter‘s take is that Life of Pi is “an unusual example of anything-is-possible technology put at the service of a humanistic and intimate story rather than something that smacks of a manufactured product.” Ang Lee, of course, has been burnt by Oscar before when the critical favorite Brokeback Mountain lost to outsider Crash in 2006 (he still won Best Director for the movie). Perhaps playing the role of the underdog will suit his film better this time around.
Experimenting with anything Alfred Hitchock-related can be a tricky task. Consider, for example, Gus Van Sant’s curious (and that’s being kind) decision to remake, shot-by-shot, the flawless Psycho. But the challenge clearly didn’t deter director Sacha Gervasi, who is hitherto best known for his quirky documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which many thought was a spoof. But now as with back then, Gervasi isn’t fooling around.
Based on Stephen Rebello’s book Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of ‘Psycho,‘ Gervasi’s movie is about how Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) took a personal risk by funding the classic 1960 horror film, mortgaging the home he shares with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) to raise the funds. Scarlett Johansson and James D’Arcy play the roles originally portrayed by Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. But Gervasi can’t resist the sub-plot of having the legendary director worried about his wife falling for the flirtatious writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who wants her to collaborate in some less appropriate ways.
The standout reasons to see Hitchcock seem to be the performances of Hopkins and Mirren, although the movie itself gets a more lukewarm welcome. The Hollywood Reporter is happy enough, noting that “Hitchcock might be a work of fantasy and speculation as much as it is history and biography, but as an interpretation of a major talent’s inner life and imagination, it’s undeniably lively and provocative.” But Variety (“Hitchcock offers almost zero insight into the peculiar workings of creative genius, or into the rich, taboo-shattering legacy of the film whose making it documents”) and Screen International (“Director Sacha Gervasi’s feature debut wobbles badly when it tries to investigate Hitchcock’s psyche, coming up with only simplistic explanations for his creative drive and darker impulses”) are less impressed, presumably preferring it if we sought out the original instead.
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Plenty of promising post-Thanksgiving offerings and each have their merits, though Silver Linings Playbook just about gets the nod over Life of Pi, which also seems to be worth a watch.