It is a complete mystery to me that this film earned a nomination for best picture. Not that there’s nothing good I can say about it: the acting is competent, the characters original and the photography and direction okay. But beware: you are about to be suckered into a formula flick.
Bradley Cooper plays Patrick, a secondary school teacher, confined to a mental hospital after beating up his wife’s lover. He’s described as bipolar. That’s a diagnosis for a person who rockets between depression and mania. Sprung from the nut hatch by his mother, Patrick moves into the family home and proceeds to annoy his father, a pathological sports fan played in a brave understated manner by Robert de Niro.
Just as we begin to tire of Patrick’s temper tantrums — and are beginning to long for him to fall into the depression phase of his illness — up pops Tiffany, a spritely widow, played by Jennifer Warren, who inveigles Patrick into practicing for a dance contest. Now Warren cut her teeth (almost literally) in portraying gutsy young women facing down giant odds in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games.
Gratifyingly, for once no one is tossing punches or spears in Jen’s direction, but she does prove herself in charge of the situation: in the culmination of Act Two, she smartly puts everyone in their place and navigates a way out of the conflicts that have been entangling Patrick’s family. It’s a bright spot in an otherwise dreary film.
Will Pat and Tiff ace the dance contest? Will Dad work his way out of his financial crisis? Will Pat and Tiff get it on? You can see where this is going to end, can’t you?
It does. No surprises. Why the nomination? Hitchcock and Skyfall were better.