Year Released: 2012
Directed by: Devid O. Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker
(R, 120 min.)
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." Ralph Waldo Emerson
An ode to dysfunction, almost a celebration of it, this film pulls us in even as we realize we are being artfully manipulated by all the old tricks. It is everything we love and loathe about American culture and Hollywood – coarse, crude, and comic, yet also brashly candid and even painfully introspective.
Unlike our British cohorts who are separated from us by a common language, we Americans do not celebrate a stiff upper lip. We do not hide our wounds. Instead we seem to take a perverse pleasure in tearing off the bandage, brandishing our ugly scabs for all to see.
This is an unlikely love story between two troubled souls, Pat (Bradley Cooper), a bi polar high school teacher just released from an 8 month sentence to a mental institution, and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a new widow who buries her grief in blizzard of sexual encounters.
Much of the comic energy comes from Pat and Tiffany’s irresistible urge to tell the unabashed truth immediately. After he is cautioned by his friends not to ask Tiffany about her deceased husband, almost the first words out of Pat’s mouth are, “How did Tommy die?”
Yet they bond on their shared flaws, as shown in their dinner conversation the night they meet:
Tiffany: "What meds are you on?"
Pat: "Me? None. I used to be on Lithium and Seroquel and Abilify but I don't take them anymore, no. They make me foggy and they also make me bloated."
Tiffany: "Yeah, I was on Xanax and Effexor but I agree, I wasn't as sharp so I stopped."
Pat: "You ever take Klonopin?"
Tiffany: "Klonopin, yeah!"
Pat: "What day is it?"
Tiffany: "Ha ha"
Pat: "What about Trazodone?"
Pat: "What, it flattens you out. I mean, you are done. It takes the light right out of your eyes."
Perhaps underneath all the over the top banter, though, we find a certain authenticity in these outcasts, just as we did their younger versions in last summer’s Moonrise Kingdom. In some ways their view of the world is more real than the usual hypocrisies of so-called civilized society, where we cover up our vulnerabilities with polite drivel and fixed smiles.
Like the unschooled urchin, Huckleberry Finn, or Dustin Hoffman’s autistic savant in Rain Man, Pat and Tiffany perhaps see the world more clearly. As Pat says about Tiffany,
She looks sad. She looks angry. She looks different from everyone else I know—she cannot put on that happy face others wear when they know they are being watched. She doesn’t put on a face for me, which makes me trust her somehow.
Perhaps we have this same reaction to Pat and Tiffany as well as his similarly flawed father, played with an infectious enthusiasm by Robert De Niro.
We know their courtship is tied together by some lies and deceptions as well as painful truths. And if we are to be objective about it, the chances for any real silver linings for these two are slim at best. This is Hollywood, though, and we cannot help but root for them. In fact, we feel obliged to.
The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. It may be a cliché, but we begin to realize how true it is when we meet Pat Solitano Sr., an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, who is also a stay at home bookie. He’s a compulsive gambler, too, at least in regards to his home team. It is not such a great surprise, then, that Pat Jr. has a few issues that have landed him in a mental hospital for 8 months.
Dolores, the wife and mom who tries to keep the volatile dysfunctional men in her life from coming to blows, knows the value of the Italian tranquilizer – good homemade food, and plenty of it.
Game days for Pat Sr. are particularly edgy. He’s superstitious about everything from where the TV remotes are placed to the green sweater he must wear. Just when he is about to lose it over whether or not his son will sit next to him to bring him luck, Dolores chimes in with, “I’m making crabby cakes and homemades.”
Apparently the “homemades” are Philadelphia Italian vernacular for "from scratch" pasta. That may be a bit much for most of us, so let’s settle on the Crabby Cakes.
They can be made ahead of time and sound great for today's Super Bowl.
6 English muffins, cut in half (Thomson work best)
1 stick butter
1 jar Old English cheese spread
1 1/2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 (6 oz.) pkg. crabmeat, thawed & drained of imitation crab
Combine butter (softened), cheese spread and mayonnaise. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper and crab meat. Spread mixture on muffin halves and cut each half into fourths. Place on cookie sheet and freeze. When frozen place in plastic bag, keep frozen until needed. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. This recipe may be made in advance and frozen.