Tag Archives: jennifer lawrence

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

“I do all this shit for other people and then I wake up and I’m empty. I have nothing!”

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro

silver linings playbookFinally, a romcom without the cringy, soppy, over-the-top parts. I don’t even really want to call it a romcom as people may just disregard it straight away, so scrap your preconceptions now! What we have here is a clever film about two broken people, one has just come out of a mental health facility and the other has been recently widowed. When they meet, their dysfunctional personalities compliment each other and a weird spark ignites between them.

Silver Linings Playbook follows the lives of Pat and Tiffany. When an opportunity to take advantage of each other  presents itself – Pat wants to contact his estranged wife and can do so through Tiffany, while Tiffany needs a dance parter for a show – they form an odd but captivating friendship.

Now being a romantic comedy, any old fool can see what is going to happen given these circumstances. However the way in which it happens is what really sets it apart from the rest and has garnered the film 8 different Oscar nominations.

Bradley Cooper has always been on my good-actor-but-needs-a-good-role list. His previous films have been good but not very challenging in terms of character. Playing someone with a bipolar disorder who is struggling to accept this is what has put his talents to the test, and delightfully it has paid off. Yes, he is the Hollywood heart-throb of the film, and I guess all romcoms need a bit of eye-candy to draw in the female audience (of which the majority of this genre is aimed at), but thankfully he has not fallen into the typical cheesy lead which a lot of male leads do. He stands out from the rest through his ability to delve deeper into the character and explore his issues. Cooper has obviously done his research and it is recognisable from start to finish.

Cooper’s lead companion, Jennifer Lawrence, rivals his effortless portrayal. Lawrence is on her way up and nobody is about to stop her. As the troubled Tiffany we are given a very different character than what we are normally presented with in these types of film. Her character development is wonderful to watch as she grows from a hostile, socially awkward girl to a mature and more stable young woman. Throughout the film she provides a fun and light-hearted twist on such a heavy topic and by introducing this element, it opens the film up to a wider audience. She is enchanting to watch and I have no doubt has brought this film a level of groundedness that helps people to relate to these characters, even if they have never had any experience with mental disorders before.

Another brilliant casting decision was Robert De Niro as Pat’s dad. Pat Sr., the Philadelphia Eagles fanatic, is a great character to watch. Encompassing that fatherly emotion, his and Cooper’s character interactions play out just how you’d expect a father and son relationship to be, especially given these circumstance. Trying to be strict and fair, yet letting his love for his son sometimes cloud his judgement, De Niro has hit the nail on the head with his portrayal. Chris Tucker and Jackie Weaver also add a bit more dimension to the film. Tucker as Pat’s hospitalised friend who keeps trying to escape, and Weaver as Pat’s mother. They bring the film a sense of roundedness and humour to the film, giving the other characters a bit more to work off.

A big factor of the film we really have to acknowledge are the writers. This fun, witty, deep, dark and playful dialogue is like no other. Without such a good handle on the events and the ways in with they unfold, the film could have either come off as in over its head or simply inadmissible. Teaming the script with the such great actors needs to be applauded too, these factors go hand in hand and compliment each other brilliantly.

Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best and most ‘real’ romcoms around. When I say that, I mean that I could see this kind of thing happening in real life, and I think that’s why it has been so well received. From the cast to the script to the heavy issues and light-hearted moments, all of these factors work together to produce a film that stands well above the rest in terms of romance and comedy. If you’re sick of the soppy, predictable love films, it would seem Silver Linings Playbook is the one you’ve been looking for.

Star rating:  8/10

Directed by David O. Russell.

Running time 122 minutes.

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The Hunger Games (2012)

“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.”

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

Set sometime in a dystopian future, America is now a country called Panem, split into 12 districts and ruled by one, the Capitol. Each year these districts supply 2 tributes, a girl and boy between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death on live television. Established to remind the districts about past and failed attempts at a revolt, The Hunger Games are just another way for the Capitol to display their control over Panem.

The 74th reaping sees 12-year old Primrose Everdeen picked as tribute – though her sister Katniss quickly volunteers in place of her. From the boys Peeta Mellark is chosen and together, the two go on to prepare and fight in the 74th annual Hunger Games.

After hearing the announcement of the film I got straight to the books. I had a feeling they were going to be huge, something akin to Twilight (but hopefully much better quality), so I set about making my way through the trilogy. The cast for the film wasn’t announced until I was off on the second book, so this futuristic world and the people in it had already been created in my mind. Fortunately though, I believe the casting choices made for The Hunger Games were fantastic.

Initially it was the three protagonists that interested me most and when I heard of who was playing ‘The Girl on Fire’ I was thrilled. Jennifer Lawrence has always said she chooses the quality of a script over the size of a film, hence her starring in more independent movies in the past. Since her role in Winter’s Bone though, I’ve been willing her to do something more mainstream just so a larger audience could appreciate her talent. I’d seen Hutcherson in The Kids are Alright about 2 years back but couldn’t really remember his character and all I knew about Hemsworth was that he was dating Miley Cyrus. Not great qualities to judge the 2 male counterparts on I’ll admit, but it just made me more anxious to see them in action.

Needless to say, the three of them do great, Lawrence in particular. Her intense and controlled performance allows for her to emerge as this fantastic new heroine, and yet she seems so relatable. Stripped of sexual ornamentation with her bow and arrow, no smoke and mirrors but just a girl on a mission, Katniss epitomises what hasn’t been on our screen for a long time – a strong and empowered female lead. For it to come from a 16 year old girl in a postapocalyptic world too, gives hope to all.

Teamed with this intensity are the slightly aloof, highly strung people of the Capitol. These colourful bunch (quite literally) have stayed so true to the book that I worry people who have jumped straight to the film won’t get it. Most notably Stanley Tucci, the affectionate, eccentric TV presenter – utterly fantastic. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks also make for a fantastic team as District 12 mentors Haymitch and Effie. We also see some other great performances from Wes Bentley and, one which surprised me for the better, Lenny Kravitz.

The only thing that would have improved the film, for me, would have been a bit more gore. In the arena for instance, the killings are rather subtle and some are conveniently out of sight. While it’s obvious why this was done, the book does give more detail about the deaths. Though it must be said that this factor doesn’t really detract from the quality of the film or the story, it would have just given the film a more ‘adult’ tone.

The only worries I have is that the second film isn’t going to stay as true to the books or as ‘non Hollywood’ as the first. As a director Ross was good, but not superb. The camera work was a bit shoddy in some places and I felt like certain qualities and important bits of information were amiss. Still, he wasn’t bad either. Now we’ve learnt that the director is being changed (Ross claims to be ‘too busy’ for the second film) and there is no doubt more money will be pumped into the next instalment. As with a lot of sequels of very successful films, increased investment can sometimes see a degradation in the more basic, humble and simple qualities which made it great in the first place.

Regardless of this, The Hunger Games is a great film that gives promise to the following instalments in the franchise. Carrying more messages about reality TV and our constant desensitisation to violent images, the film stands for so much more than you may initially think. It has already broken many box office records and is quickly becoming one of the biggest films in recent years, most probably one of the biggest of 2012. The cast are all fantastic and make this film even more concrete than I thought possible. I’d also recommend reading the books, they’re just as great .

Star rating:   8/10

Directed by Gary Ross.

Running time 142 minutes.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

“I’d be lost without the weight of you two on my back. I ain’t going anywhere.”

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt

This must be one of the hardest games of hide’n’seek ever.

Ree Dolly is on a mission to locate her father, a deadbeat druggie who has declared his house as his bail-bond. With a severely depressed and unresponsive mother and 2 younger siblings to look after, Ree has struggled to keep her family intact, especially with no income. Now with the threat of being kicked out of their house, Ree must find her father and persuade him to make his court date otherwise they’re out on their heels.

Winter’s Bone is a truely unfinching and harsh film. Set in the Ozark Mountain’s, this hillbilly/ horror/ drug type genre takes no mercy. As Ree searches from one place to the next place, each less inviting than the one before, we are shown the lengths that these ‘clients’ of her father will go to, to keep Ree from finding the truth. It ain’t pretty. Ree is stubborn and tough, especially for a 17 year old, which often leads her into dangerous situations, but this is when we see her honest and true love for her family and their welfare shine through.

John Hawkes, who plays the terrifying Teardrop, does so with an ease and excellence. Maybe my favourite role in the film, he’s unforgiving, intense and completely nuts. Jennifer Lawrence also pulls off what I believe to be her best role yet. The connection between Ree and her 2 younger siblings who she’s having to raise is so natural and honestly a complete joy to watch. This little family is so tightly knit and has so much potential, the scene where Ree is teaching them how to shoot a crossbow is my favourite. The three of them were cast perfectly and this scene is a prime example of this.

Winter’s Bone, while in places seems slow paced, is full of a vibrancy intertwined in its dull setting. The stark background, out in the country and lacking the technology that seems to overwhelm modern day films, really does it a favour. It allows the story to be told boldly and nothing distracts from its harsh facts, the winter background is the perfect fit.

While it won’t be for everyone, you can’t deny this film does a great job. From the story to the setting to the casting of some great actors, Winter’s Bone is a fantastic film that allows Lawrence to shows us her stuff. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

Star rating:  7/10

Directed by Debra Granik.

Running time 100 minutes.

Like Crazy (2011)

“I thought I understood it. But I didn’t. I knew the smudgeness of it. The eagerness of it. The idea of it. Of you and me.”

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence

Anna (Jones) meets Jacob (Yelchin) when she takes a year abroad as an exchange student to study journalism in Los Angeles. Young and in love, the two are faced with the troubling aspect of maintaining a long distance relationship when she is denied entry back into the USA, after returning home to attend a family obligation. Due to overstaying her original visa, the LA immigration authorities turn her away and send her back to England.

Like Crazy explores the strained relationship of Anna and Jacob who have this amazing connection and love for one another, but when put under pressure by living thousands of miles apart, see cracks and an unfortunate deterioration in their relationship.

A surprising but lovely feature of the film was that the dialogue was mostly improvised, the cast only had a 50 page outline to work with. Adding more personality to the characters and having a more relatable feel, it also demonstrates the young cast’s talents. As an independent production, Like Crazy also had a small budget that didn’t exceed $250,000, with Jones even doing her own hair and makeup.

The naturalness of the film is what I love most about it. Nothing is forced and this relationship seems genuine. You can relate to both Anna and Jacob and really feel for their unfortunate situation. There are plenty of handheld camera shots (the whole film was shot with a Canon EOS 7D) where we are shown just how well the two fit together. Even when there is no dialogue, just certain looks and touches, the chemistry between Jones and Yelchin was spot on and should see the pair be sprung into stardom soon enough.

Though I did feel there were a few faults with the film. Firstly the whole visa thing. Even though Anna is a romantic and might feel that love can conquer all, living in a post 9/11 world is not something that can be ignored. Yeah she’s not a terrorist, but she broke the rules! That’s either due to her being really naive or just a plain stupid.

Another thing about the film that I found a bit frustrating was was how easy it appeared for the two to just give up on their relationship when they became separated. They occasionally sent texts but always seemed to miss each other’s phone calls, even finding replacements for one another. They couldn’t even be bothered to Skype, so was this even love to begin with? Perhaps it was just some young infatuation, distraction or hobby. I guess it was trying to show that life keeps going, people move on. But seriously, if you love each other, like crazy, wouldn’t you show a bit more umph in being together? That’s where I think it falls down the most.

Ending on a poignant note that doesn’t suggest a happy ever after but leaves you to search for a conclusion, Like Crazy is like a much sweeter and adolescent version of Blue Valentine. With two rising stars and a lot of talent, it’s obvious as to why it won 2 awards at Sundance and received praise from the critics.

Star rating:  6/10

Directed by Drake Doremus.

Running time 90 minutes.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

“All your life your world has tried to tame you. It’s time for you to be free.”

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class takes us back in time to show us the origins of the X-Men and in particular, the relationship between Professor X and Magneto.

The film immediately throws us back to the Second World War where we see a very frightening and intimidating Nazi, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), vehemently question a young Erik Lensherr – who is later known as Magneto -about his mutant abilities.

With a very acute interest in mutant genes, Shaw threatens Erik with killing his mother if he does not show off his talents – the capacity to move metal. When Erik fails, Shaw shoots his mother dead which results in Erik killing two guards and destroying a room with his powers, somehow released through his anger. From this moment on, Erik vows to avenge his mother’s death and carries the mind-set that mutants will never be accepted by mankind. He also unexpectedly discovers Shaw himself is a mutant, so his plot for revenge becomes far more difficult than he had initially imagined, if only he had a team of people to help…

A few years pass and in a nutshell, we watch a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) form a school for human mutants. Here, Charles hopes to train mutants in how they can use their powers to their full potential and with levels of great control. The other enticing factor being that there is a place for human mutants to take refuge, so they can feel more ‘normal’ rather than feeling isolated out in the world. We also see Charles and Erik (Michael Fassbender) establish a close relationship, both joining forces in fighting against Shaw who has the idea of World Domination firmly planted in his head. Though this doesn’t last long as their ideologies differ and the beginnings of their rivalry, a story that has been the basis for all other X-Men films, is started.

I’ll admit that I was a bit dubious about seeing the film, mainly because it was a prequel and I was unsure of how it would turn out (cast your minds back to Star Wars and Hannibal in particular). Some prequels have spoilt the quality and essence of mystery surrounding a franchise before as they can seem anti-heroic, minimally creative and more about trivia than telling the story. Besides you kind of know where it’s going to end up if you’ve seen the following films.

X-Men: First Class really exceeded my expectations though. There were plenty of action scenes, twists, turns and clever dialogue referencing other X-Men films to keep you entertained. With a team of excellent writers, producers and a fantastic director, if the film hadn’t have hit the nail on the head it would have left me puzzled. Though X-Men buffs would have been able to predict character’s actions more readily, there was still a story to be told and it was done with great results.

The great thing about this film is that you don’t have to have seen the other X-Men films to understand anything about X-Men: First Class. This was a very important factor as the film can then work to pull in a new audience and spark up an interest in the other X-Men films that you’ll want to pursue, trust me.

The actors were all fantastic, especially McAvoy and Fassbender who both had to portray perhaps the most known X-Men of all, so had the pressure of living up to the notorious characters. Bacon was also great as the terror threat, frightening, powerful and with a seemingly warped view of how society should be run. However one of my favourite performances was by Jennifer Lawrence who plays Raven/Mystique. I hadn’t seen her in any films beforehand and she’s still fairly new to Hollywood in general, though she’s sure to be around as a top actress for many years to come with a performance like this. Her next project is for the highly anticipated franchise, The Hunger Games. A seductive January Jones also pops up as Emma Frost, a sexy mutant who’s alliance lies with Shaw, her performance was great too and I’m sure all men would agree, even if they weren’t paying that much attention to what she was saying.

Full of action, suspense, emotional scenes and thrills, X-Men: First Class surely succeeded the many presumptions being made about the prequel. It stands as a brilliant film and will undoubtedly spark your interest in other X-Men films, (kind of how the reboot of the Star Trek franchise did in 2009).

I fully recommend it.

Star rating: 8.5/10

Directed by Matthew Vaughn.

Running time 132 minutes.