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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro | R | 4 Stars


If Silver Linings Playbook were a person-a loud, pushy, manic, funny, neurotic rage monster-you’d mow down old ladies to get away from him. But as a film? You won’t want to budge. Based on Matthew Quick’s ’08 novel about a man fighting to rebuild his life in the face of mental illness, Silver Linings bursts with so much charm, energy and wit, it’s a miracle the film knows what to do with it all.

Cooper stars as Pat Solatano, a teacher sprung (too?) early from a mental facility after, well, let’s call it an understandable psychotic break. Moving in with his folks could lead to another. Pat’s mom, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), means well, but his dad, Pat Sr. (De Niro), is so obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles and good-luck charms, it’s fair to question his sanity too. Then there’s neighbor Tiffany (Lawrence), a damaged young widow who knows her pharmaceuticals as well as Pat does, but who also might be the straightest arrow in this warped quiver.

Cooper grounds the film with an assured, likeable performance (no easy trick with a character this explosive), but the standout is the Oscar-worthy Lawrence. She veers from hilarious to haunted in a flash, flaunting a range only hinted at in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games. But then, the entire film is masterful, from the bold script to David O. Russell’s kinetic direction to the wonderful supporting cast. It might be the best-and most unlikely-date movie of the year.

Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson | R |


Don’t yawn yet. Granted, after a century of adaptations, we have a right to be tired of Tolstoy’s Russian society wife, Anna (Knightley), who ditches her life for playboy Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson). But surely there’s room in our hard, literary hearts for a film this audacious? To emphasize the artifice of Anna’s world, director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard set much of the film onstage, the actors gliding as if choreographed. It’s like a musical, minus the singing. The gimmick-and at bottom, that’s what it is-makes Anna’s stiff husband, Karenin (a fantastic Law), more relatable, even as it blunts the emotional impact of Knightley’s fine turn. But perhaps the best thing about this Anna is that it plays up the novel’s other couple, Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and Levin (Domhnall Gleeson). They’re the true romantics.