Writer-director David O. Russell excels, but his stars steal the show. Bradley Cooper makes for a charming and enigmatic lead, but Jennifer Lawrence steals his spotlight. While everyone involved in “Silver Linings Playbook” pushes the bar higher and higher, it’s Lawrence who’ll be the toughest to top.
After eight months in a psychiatric facility, Pat (Bradley Cooper) heads home to live with his mother and father (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro). Determined to get his wife back, Pat dedicates every waking hour to the pursuit, much to the chagrin of his father who desperately wants Pat to watch the Philadelphia Eagles games with him. Despite Pat’s persistence, a restraining order keeps him from making much progress. It isn’t until he meets the equally unsound Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) that he finds a way around the court-mandated red tape – as long as he helps Tiffany out with her dance competition first.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is a romantic comedy with a profound amount of drama and depth, a slice of life yet an immensely satisfying story with a beginning, middle and end, it’s off-putting at times, but still the ultimate crowd pleaser. The film is like nothing you’ve seen before, fulfilling certain expectations and defying others, only to turn around and offer something you never saw coming.
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Since when did a barrage of bullets make a crime drama a winner? Hollywood might saturate our theaters with implausible film after film where heroes narrowly escape machinegun fire or every character unites for a grand final shootout, but apparently that hasn’t consumed the Australian film industry. In writer-director David Michod’ Animal Kingdom we get the genre antithesis, a film lacking action that builds its tension through smart writing, excellent performances and calculated pacing.
Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) is an armed robber in hiding, his brother Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is making a killing selling drugs and the youngest, Darren (Luke Ford), is just along for the ride lending a hand when necessary. So is life in the Cody family, a well-known clan in the criminal underground of Melbourne, Australia. When the boys’ nephew, J (James Frencheville), loses his mother to a heroine overdose, their mother, Smurf (Jackie Weaver), brings him into their home and ultimately into their dangerous lifestyle. The Cody brothers and Pope’s longtime friend and partner, Baz (Joel Edgerton), help J assimilate, teaching him vital lessons, most importantly how to let others know who’s king.
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With Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Eat Pray Love and The Expendables all hitting theaters this weekend David Michod’sAnimal Kingdom has some serious competition. All three of those wide releases target different demographics. Scott Pilgrim will pull in the younger crowds, Eat Pray Love primarily woman and The Expendables all the guys craving action. However, Animal Kingdom can’t be assigned a specific category; it’s different and if you’re looking for something other than the typical summer blockbuster, it delivers big time.
Animal Kingdom is Michod’s very first feature film, but having gone to film school, written Hesher and directed a number of short films, he’s certainly no novice in the industry and it shows. The piece is about the Cody family, a family very well known in the Melbourne crime underworld. Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) is the oldest of three brothers, Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) falls in the middle and Darren (Luke Ford) is the youngest. Baz (Joel Edgerton) is Pope’s partner and practically part of the family. Their mother Smurf (Jackie Weaver) is always busy watching over them and even agrees add another to the clan when her young nephew’s (James Frencheville) mother passes away. But when the Cody legacy begins to crumble, they’ve all got to reevaluate where they stand and try to survive while J just has to figure out where he belongs in this jungle.
Michod first began working on this story right after he finished film school and the time he’s put into it really paid off. But the script isn’t the only thing that required a significant amount of attention; there isn’t one element of Animal Kingdom that isn’t clearly well thought out, making the final product extremely effective. Check out what Michod had to say about every aspect of the filmmaking process from developing the script to casting the Codys, all the way down to the editing process.
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