Bradley Cooper received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Patrick "Pat Jr." Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook.
Bradley Cooper here portrays the troubled man Pat Jr. whose life is in shambles after a violent break down from finding out his wife was cheating on him. This is apparently a change of pace for Cooper whose previous films tended to be lighter weight or "dumber" comedies, I say apparently because I really have not seen these films. Anyway this is indeed a comedy, but with serious elements to it. The most serious element of the film really lies within Bradley Cooper's portrayal of Pat. Playing a mentally troubled individual is place where an actor certainly can go over the top or unrealistic in their portrayal though this is definitely not a problem for Bradley Cooper here.
Cooper takes on the mental disturbance part of his performance with a surprising degree of assurance in his portrayal of this. Cooper begins the film showing him to be a man who has not fully recovered from his breakdown but there has been some recovery from him. Bradley Cooper is very effective by internalizes so well in these scenes that show him to be on edge and which affect his overall behavior. Cooper is very good in portraying the deep seeded rage that is within his eyes that has not gone away from his original violent reaction to the traumatic moment in his life. Cooper creates just the right amount of uneasiness in his performance that allows Pat to be both man trying to remake himself, but as well could easily fall back.
An early effective moment of Cooper's is when he first goes to visit his therapist after leaving the institution and hears the same song from his wedding as well as when he found out about his wife's adultery. This is tricky moment in which Pat gets set off by the music which is a trigger of his. Cooper is extremely good in this scene as he portrays the quick breakdown honestly. He shows the attempts to resist his reaction, but as well just the savage intensity that comes from bringing back the memories of his trauma. Bradley Cooper plays the scene very well through the whole breakdown and he handles his attempt to put himself back together quickly in a moving fashion.
In all of the scenes early in the film where Pat has serious problems coping with his issues Cooper always resists any urge to overact in the least. He is extremely effective in both of his early breakdowns getting across the emotional stress his character is feeling beautifully. He not plays it up, instead he finds the emotional truth within his character, rather than letting just be an excuse for him to "act". A particularly great moment is when he pushed around and could become violent again. Cooper is just fantastic in this scene as he silently shows exactly what Pat is going through right in his face as he tries to keep himself in check even as he is pained to do so.
One of the big aspects of his character though is the way he seems to say just about anything that comes in his head no matter how unfitting it might be to a particular situation. Again Cooper does this in a surprisingly natural fashion that does not feel like some sort of wacky character trait, but rather just the approach that Pat must take to be able to deal with his life. He makes this unabashed quality to Pat really work in favor of his characterization, and that it is just one of his ways he is trying to cope with his problems. Although I would not necessarily say that it is quite an endearing part of him, but he is able to make it appropriately natural aspect of the character which works well.
Cooper is the one and only true lead in the film. I say this because although Pat's relationship to Tiffany is central to the film, so is Pat's relationship with his family. Cooper is the absolute center of the film and as so he is the one who really must work all the other different character's together, which he does do. He plays well with both Jacki Weaver as his mother which is a purely warmth filled relationship as well as with his father played by Robert De Niro. With De Niro he shapes a more complex relationship but manages to realizes both the highs and lows of their father son relationship in equal measure. When they are fighting and when they are showing their love for one another he and De Niro hit just the right notes.
With all the other character who pop in and out of the film some who are perhaps a little too expressive at times could easily become problematic but they don't and I think the reason why it doesn't become a problem is due to Bradley Cooper. He is in pretty much every scene and almost everyone has to act against him. Cooper though acts always as a sort of a balancing act to all and does it incredibly well making the various character's do their things in their humorous fashion, and Cooper either adds to it through the bluntness of Pat he brings out so well at times. Cooper as well through his surprisingly down to earth portrayal, surprising because he is playing a character who is bi-polar, honestly allows some of those other flamboyant portrayals.
Of course the central relationship is Pat's relationship with Tiffany. Cooper and Lawrence are quite good together and just have some natural chemistry works very well. There is technically speaking the usual romantic comedy staple of the two clearly being for each other, but certain things keeping them apart. Well in far lesser romantic comedy it is usually not character based, and is always that contrived lie device. This film is much better and instead creates the hesitations from the characters particularly due to Pat. One thing that Pat believes for most of the film is that he can get back with his wife. Cooper is very good in showing that this feeling is what really keeps Pat on a purely friend basis with Tiffany, and he believably shows this persistent foolish belief Pat holds.
Rather than show it as this big romance it is shown as more of growing friendship between the two with subtle indications by Cooper of it growing into more. This handle almost silently by Cooper and he does it especially well. For example in the last scenes of the film we see Pat's reaction to seeing his wife again but as well as he sees Tiffany. Cooper is outstanding the way he reflects the change in Pat in this scene and how he finally lost his hopeless faith for his wife moving instead to realizes his love for Tiffany. When he finally does admit his love for Tiffany, it really works effectively because of how much it was earned beforehand by Cooper's subtle depiction of these feeling.
This is an excellent performance by Bradley Cooper and shows a great deal of ability from the actor. In a part that so easily could have been overacted, Cooper stays believable throughout even when being humorous. With a character that could have been easy to hate, Cooper makes Pat very likable man even with his troubles. In a film where there could be very serious problems involving the tone of the films considering the tricky subject of mental illness along with the fact that it uses it in context with a romantic comedy it is astonishing that it does not all go very wrong, and one of the biggest reasons it works is Cooper's great performance in the center film that takes just the right approach and finds the perfect tone for the film.