Monthly Archives: December 2012

Review – Silver Linings Playbook

I don’t like traditional romantic comedies. They tend to be cliche and boring, and they seem to give the impression that all you need to do is fix yourself up a little and show some dedication in order to win your potential partner, which is a little how Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) feels after his stint in the mental institution at the beginning of Silver Linings Playbook.

Fortunately, this is not a traditional romantic comedy.

As I’ve mentioned, Pat just gets out of a mental institution after nearly beating his (ex) wife’s lover to death. But of course, on getting out, he’s going to exercise, read his ex’s high school syllabus that she’s teaching, and then, all will be well, right?

Well, not exactly.

On returning home, Pat is reunited with his parents, Dolores (Jacki Weaver, playing a mother who is the very opposite of her Oscar nominated matriarch from Animal Kingdom, she does good work here with reasonably limited material), and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro, and I’ll be damned if this isn’t a comeback performance for the ages. But more on that later), who more or less welcome him with open arms, trying to accept his adjusting to life beyond the hospital, and his eccentricities, like his fascination with everything having a silver lining.

Of course, in his attempts to exercise in order to win his wife, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is… Something, to put it mildly, a young widow adjusting to life without her husband, and her own depression, which manifested itself in the form of promiscuity after the death of her husband. Lawrence’s performance has been earning raves since the film came out, and rightly show, she brings empathy to the character, powerfully showing the ups and downs of her conditions, at times delicate, and at times incredibly volatile, her performance is excellent.

Earlier, I mentioned De Niro’s performance, describing it as a comeback for the ages, and I’d like to talk about that in a little more detail. De Niro has obviously always been a fantastic actor, and has the Oscars to prove it. But as of late, he’s been performing in slightly… Sub par projects, so to speak. But here, the material is excellent, and he is excellent in it. Pat Sr. also has a little mental eccentricity (OCD), like so many other characters in the film. He plays the disorder so well, the little nuances of adjusting things in the room so that they’re ‘just so’, and as well as playing him as well as the struggling father trying to help his son. De Niro, much like Lawrence, will likely be given an Oscar nomination come awards time, and this one is certainly well deserved.

One of the best things about the film is the energy that it has, it is constantly in motion, from the kinetic camerawork and editing to the sheer energy of the performances and the choreography (a dance competition plays a major part in the film’s plot). It’s always on the move, and this makes it a joy to watch. But of course, it’s not just high speed, laugh a minute comedy, there’s surprisingly powerful drama at work here, that the excellent script and performances bring out with ease.

Of course, it’s far from perfect, and in it’s final act, it does embrace those rom-com conventions that it stayed so far away from to begin with. But even then, it isn’t too glaring a fault, since the film has still embraced the oddball nature of it’s plot and characters, it doesn’t feel at all out of place for it to end the way it does.

All in all, this film is absolutely excellent. High energy direction and camerawork punctuate the great comedy, and the sheer quality of the cast allows the drama to blend in without a hitch. Expect nominations across the board, particularly for Lawrence and De Niro, who’s finally coming back to high quality acting, and doing so in spectacular fashion.

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Casting the classics – The Picture of Dorian Gray

I recently saw a very strange, postmodern adaptation of a Jacobean tragedy play called The Changeling (no relation to the Eastwood movie), and there was something about it, perhaps just how out there it was, that’s inspired me to do this new feature. Plus, it’s always nice to have something to break up just regular articles and reviews.

As the title of the piece suggests, it’s all about how I would cast classics (books, plays etc.), and this time, I’m looking at The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Since I know it rather well, I can cast the principle roles with confidence, and I’ll be doing so in order of their significance, leaving the most important ones until last.

And so, without further ado, here is how I would cast the principle roles in adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Kirsten Dunst as Sibyl Vane

I’ll admit that I’m casting an actress who’s a fair way older than the character she’d be playing (Sibyl is about 18 in the novel if my memory serves me right), in fact, she’d be about the same age as the person I have in mind for Dorian.

But there’s something about her, and her performance in Melancholia that I think really shows hat she’d be able to portray the fragility and desire of a young woman who falls desperately in love with the enigmatic Dorian.

Alife Allen as Basil Hallward

This piece of casting is a little difficult to explain. Allen is of course excellent as the treacherous and power hungry Theon in the wonderful Game of Thrones, but that character of course, is nothing like the reserved, delicate painter from Dorian Gray.

However, just looking at Allen, the way his build and how he looks aesthetically, I just associate him with Basil, and I think, seeing his talent in ….Thrones, that he’d be more than capable of tackling the material, particularly given how far removed Basil is from Theon Greyjoy.

Jared Harris as Lord Henry

I loved Harris in Mad Men, I thought he was wonderful, and deserved to win the Emmy that was tragically taken away from him.

Simply put, he’d be fantastic as Henry, he can play the reserved and calculating man with such ease, as he slowly corrupts the eponymous hero, but the range that Harris can bring to the table would perhaps allow Lord Henry to be a little more humanized  for want of better phrasing, as it’s easy for him to be seen as being pure evil.

Also, Henry is more than just a force of quiet corruption, he is the antithesis of Basil, hedonistic and a lover of life in more ways than one, Harris could bring this out easily, as well as that quiet resentment that festers in Henry, as he can only look on, aging, while Dorian retains his youth.

 

And now, last, but certainly not least:

 

Dan Stevens as Dorian Gray

First off, there’s an aesthetic reason behind it. Dorian is blonde, and so, obviously, is Dan Stevens (Ben Barnes, who played Dorian in the last adaptation, wasn’t, but I really shouldn’t go on about that woeful film right now), and in looking at Dan Stevens, he, to me at least, looks perfect for Dorian.

Then there’s his acting. I’ll admit that I’ve only seen him in Downton Abbey, but I’ll be damned if he’s not excellent in it, he shows great range, from romance to rage, his ability to perform is not in question here.

Dorian is of course, a little more like Basil at the beginning of the play, before becoming gradually more corrupted by Henry, and later, by sin in general, as the story progresses, and Stevens could really do some good work with that material, showing his range in greater detail, as he tragically falls from grace.

 

So, am I right wrong? Who would you pick instead. and what do you think of my choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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