It's a very delicate balance to make a film that's funny, emotionally authentic and original, in a genre where there is every temptation to be irritating, sentimental and cliched, which makes it all the sweeter that David O Russell and the rest of the gang have pulled off something rather wonderful.
OK, so let me just get this off my chest – I'm in love with Jennifer Lawrence. No, not like that, but just the fact that at the age of just 22 – let me repeat that, 22 – she is one of the most astonishing actresses I've seen. You never doubt her as a character, wanting her to succeed because you know she won't sell you short. She's so good that she makes the rest of the cast look better. And it's not even the leading role.
Because the centre of our attention (initially, at least) is Patrick (Bradley Cooper), a man with a number of major mental issues. He's been in an institution for 8 months, having attacked his wife's lover when he found them in the shower together. She now has a restraining order against him. He has a bipolar disorder, is prone to fits of uncontrollable rage and violence, and is convinced that he and his ex-wife are still in love and will soon be reunited. His father also Patrick (played by Robert de Niro) has his own challenges, being something of an OCD kind of person, who likes his remotes lined up just so, and is superstitious and obsessive about football (the American type).
Enter Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) stage left. She's the sister of his friend's wife, recently widowed and with another case of mental disorder. She and Patrick are obviously meant for each other – it's a film, duh – but the pleasure of the movie is seeing whether and how that's going to happen. There are family issues – father/son, brother/brother, etc; there's a therapist; there's anger management and issues around drugs; there are assorted friends and hangers on who pop up every now and then, and not one single aspect of it bears any relation to real life. Patrick and Tiffany are far too glamorous, their mental disorders are serious within the film, but don't seem to stop them doing and getting what they want (eventually), and although the film flirts with edgeiness, we're talking safety first. No one really gets hurt. But the same could be said of Rachel Getting Married which is another film I loved. I don't want documentary plausibility, I wnat to be entertained, moved and made to feel good.
So, we head off into Strictly Ballroom territory, everyone rallies round when push comes to shove, and love is all around. The soundtrack is terrific (in particular, the use of Girl From The North Country by Dylan and Johnny Cash), the acting is great – with Lawrence looking well set for an Oscar nomination. No, really. This film was the most popular at Toronto, it's been praised to the skies in the USA, but best of all, it's a rally good film that doesn't make you feel embarassed for enjoying it. You can forget that Cooper was in The Hangover movies; you can almost forget the various cinema crimes de Niro has perpetrated for the last 15 years, and for two hours you can indulge yourself in pure unadulterated pleasure, with all the right buttons being pressed.