The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Enjoy

January 25, 2013

Benji Tunnell: Tucker, Lawrence stand out in sketchy 'Playbook'

JOPLIN, Mo. — Movies dealing with mental illness are a tricky thing to pull of effectively.

Handled wrong, they come off as tasteless, insensitive or maudlin (“Radio,” “Me, Myself & Irene”). Handled the right way, and they become Oscar bait (“Forrest Gump,” “Slingblade,” “A Beautiful Mind”). “Silver Linings Playbook” attempts to walk this fine line without tripping over itself.

In “Playbook,” Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a former teacher just released from a court-ordered stint at a mental institution after walking in on his wife and her lover and nearly beating the man to death. While most might think such behavior is warranted, Pat is diagnosed as bipolar, and must undergo eight months of treatment.

After his release, he moves back in with his mom, Delores (Jacki Weaver), and dad, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro), as he attempts to get his life back together and reconcile with his wife — who has a pesky restraining order standing in the way of a happy reunion.

In the meantime, Pat meets Tiffany, a widower who became self-destructive after her husband was killed and who is only just now getting her life in order. Pat wants Tiffany to deliver a letter to his ex, and she agrees to do so on the condition that he be her dance partner for a competition.

It’s a pretty far stretch to get these two characters together, and it doesn’t entirely work. Throw in a subplot with Pat Sr. running a bookmaking scheme and his superstitious delusions that his son is the key to his good luck and the Philadelphia Eagles winning, and it seems like the filmmakers are trying a little too hard to force whimsy into the story while trying to railroad the two leads into a predestined relationship.

Director David O. Russell tries his best to move from the fringes of independent film (“Spanking the Monkey,” “Flirting with Disaster”), first with his Oscar-nominated “The Fighter” and now with “Playbook.” But his attempts to merge his early film mindset with something more mainstream hurt the flow of the film. His screenplay adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel builds Pat as a mostly unlikeable character, and his redemption seems as forced as the idea of the dance competition.

The script is incomplete. The motivation for so many actions seems underdeveloped, and there are points in the plot where characters have knowledge that they couldn’t possibly have had. Every step is predictable, and as it steamrolls to its conclusion, there is little doubt as to what choices will be made, what the overall outcome will be and how we’re supposed to feel about it.

The performances span the board for the movie. DeNiro shows enthusiasm and energy not seen in a while, seemingly ecstatic to get away from all forms of “Fockers,” but he comes across as cartoonish and unbelievable in both his demeanor and his decisions.

Cooper tries hard to break into full leading-man role, but his portrayal of bipolar holds no real validity. Not only does he not make his character likable, but he makes him mostly unbelievable.

There are two standouts in the film, for two very different reasons:

• The first caught me completely off guard. I’m about to use words I never thought I would: I actually liked Chris Tucker. Tucker has been known for variations of his annoying, grating, extraordinarily obnoxious persona for so long that I didn’t think he could convince me that he could actually act if compelled to.

This is a far cry from his “Rush Hour”/”Money Talks”/”Friday” days. Though his character Danny is wholly unnecessary to the plot or the film, Tucker, in his limited role, is surprising in his restraint. Let’s hope he continues on this path, if only for our collective sanity.

• The standout of the film is Jennifer Lawrence. As the young widow, she realistically portrays heartache and instability, coping with the loss of her husband and the guilt that she feels by embracing self-destructive behavior.

Though she has detoured into the more profitable big-budget world, a role like this shows that she could very well be the strongest actor of her generation. Lawrence injects heart and humor into the character, and because of this, she redeems an otherwise predictable and pointless film.

1
Text Only
Enjoy
  • Wichita.jpg Going Western: Indie film 'Wichita' to show tonight at MSSU

    Nicholas Burton isn't exactly raising a cash cow on his livestock ranch. But the Wichita, Kan.-based filmmaker has an advantage over other film producers: Westerns are in high demand, and he's in the perfect spot to make them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041114_pajama game.jpg Love, labor liven up JHS musical 'Pajama Game'

    The spring musical put on by the Joplin High School Theatre Department deals with a labor of love among a labor dispute.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • MSSU choir, orchestra combines for performance of legendary 'Carmina Burana'

    The free performance is a joint effort between the Southern Symphonic Chorus, which is composed of the MSSU Concert Chorale and volunteer singers, and the orchestra, which is made up of Missouri Southern students, faculty and professionals from the community.

    April 11, 2014

  • 1520face.JPG Globe Phone Test: Nokia Lumia 1520's outstanding camera offset by frustrating OS

    On Monday, news broke that flight attendants aboard Delta Airlines flights would receive Nokia Lumia 1520 devices in October. The devices will have flight manuals, support on-board sales, allow attendants to process credit card payments and crapcan heavy 500-page manuals they used have to bring.

    The move is similar to how American Airlines attendants were give Galaxy Note phablets. Because Delta already gave attendants similar smartphones, it's reasonable to assume that the company places a lot of faith in the Windows Phone system.

    But Delta's choice of device is puzzling because the 1520 is better suited to take photos and videos of people on board an airplane, not take their drink and meal orders. And because the device is so big, I'm not sure how flight attendants would feel carrying it around in a cramped flight.

     

    As the iOS and Android systems struggle for the top smartphone operating system, Microsoft's Windows Phone has scratched its way into the No. 3 spot, pushing past BlackBerry. Nokia, once one of the top names in devices, is pairing with Microsoft to make a device that features an incredible camera. The company already made the Lumia 1020, which features a humongous 41-megapixel camera that does amazing things.

    The Lumia 1520 is its biggest offering to date. The device, available exclusively from AT&T, is one of the biggest phablet-style phones on the market today. For about 10 days, I tested out a black-colored device provided by AT&T.



     

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jermiah-Tucker-020812.jpg Jeremiah Tucker: Kurt Cobain likely would have thrived in today's music scene

    I have no memory of the day he died. A friend asked me about this recently, and I said at that age -- I would've been 13 -- I was probably still rocking my cassingle of the Escape Club's "Wild Wild West." Needless to say, my middle school years were rough.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_108172906 Benji Tunnell: 'Winter Soldier' sets a high bar for summer movie season

    If a film was truly great, it would be held until June or July. Or so the thinking might have been before the release last week of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marta-mug.jpg Marta Churchwell: Joplin mural part of Benton's larger message

    Recently, I received information on Joplin's celebration of one of its native sons, Thomas Hart Benton. In observance of the artist's 125th birthday, City Hall will host a collection of his works alongside his mural that honors Joplin history.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 040814 Worldfest.jpg World Fest pairs well with Celebrate America

    The Slinkerds think Silver Dollar City's World Fest is a great opportunity to show their young children other cultures and introduce them to people from around the world.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ka-Pow! New attraction offers free-fall plunge

    On May 17, two brave souls willing to whether mid-May¹s unpredictable weather will climb into the two drop-floor aqua-launch capsules atop KaPau Plummet.

    April 11, 2014 1 Slideshow

  • Jermiah-Tucker-020812.jpg Jeremiah Tucker: Letterman performance gives deserved boost to Future Islands

    It's hard to believe an appearance on a late-night talk show can still make a band's career. It's such a common occurrence and the cultural currency of the late-night format has dropped so much in recent years that, short of literally setting the stage ablaze or stabbing the host, the most a band could hope for is a couple of polite blog notices.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo