Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental institution under the condition that he would continue taking his medication, attend therapy, and respect the restraining order his wife filed against him. His parents, Patrizio (Robert de Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), suggest that he move on and forget about his wife who has left him for good, but he insists on getting into shape and reading all the books in her English class curriculum in hopes that they could eventually get back together. Enter Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), the young widow of a police officer, who turns to her sex addiction to cope with her husband’s recent death. They do not immediately click on their first meeting, although a potential is seen after they get along discussing the different medications they are taking. He believes that through being constantly positive, one would be able to see the silver lining in anything, hence the forced positivist outlook. She, on the other hand, veers towards the negative. They find common ground when she promises to deliver his letters to his wife, in exchange for him being her dance partner in an annual event that she has always wanted to participate in.
Oh look, a romantic comedy with really deranged characters! A lot of people embrace this movie because it is not the typical sugar-coated rom-com box office fodder that we get to see every other month. The girl is not the quirky ball of sunshine. The guy is not the standoffish silent type. Here, both of them have their own quirks, which at times turn playfully violent, much to the delight of the audience. The movie will not leave you drowning in all the mush, although it is not completely devoid of it. Instead, the director makes you root for the two lead characters no matter how neurotic they tend to be most of the time. Toss in some more dysfunctional characters in the form of the guy’s family and you have a winning box office formula.
A different side of Cooper is seen here, or perhaps people will argue that it is just a more psychotic version of his character in the Hangover movies. But as the bi-polar guy who strives to change his ways for the betterment of his life, he is just so fun to watch mostly because of the character itself, who is like a seven year old with ADHD. The character development by the end of the movie is a welcome twist because his back story is established very well with the movie focusing solely on him for the first quarter of an hour or so. By the time Tiffany comes in, you would have already invested emotionally on Pat.
Lawrence as Tiffany just lights up the screen. She does not appear immediately, but once she does you just know that there would be another character you would end up loving. It is not hard to see why she won the Oscar for this performance. She really would have been miscast here if she did not step up because she seems too young for the role. The likes of Angelina Jolie or someone older could have effortlessly done it instead. As for Lawrence, she has done a good job in adapting, from speaking with a lower voice register all the way to adding a few pounds to make her curves look more womanly. Tiffany is summarily dismissed as “Tommy’s whore widow” which is the very same words she uses to describe herself, but through Lawrence’s eyes you would see that there is much more to the character than that. Those eyes are simply expressive, and they tell one hell of a story on their own, regardless if her actions agree or otherwise.
Both de Niro and Weaver offer solid support, although many think that the Oscar nods were undeserved. For de Niro, it does take a while for you to like his character, not to mention he only has a few brilliant moments acting-wise, but admit it, once Pat Sr shows that he brings the fun in dysfunctional, you would know that this movie would not be the same without him. It is just so hilarious finding out through his old man tantrums that the irregular mood swings run in the family. Weaver, on the other hand, is funny but you could also observe how emotionally battered she is dealing with all the problems of the family. Like Lawrence, she can tell stories with her eyes, and what they narrate is that of a loving mother and wife who would do everything for her family. In a way, you see your own mom in her.
You will be laughing a lot watching this movie because of a plethora of reasons: the awkwardness brought about by the situations they are in; the random dialogues about Valium and juju; Chris Tucker doing something not as annoying as trading corny jokes with Jackie Chan; and that final ballroom dance and the excitement over getting a 5.0.