Telling a story that seeks at all costs to evoke a message of optimism in the audience — despite the seriousness of the issues it addresses — can be a cruel mission, since the perfect balance between entertainment and reflection is not always achieved. “The Bright Side” gets rid of the trap of foolishly seducing the audience by making use of admittedly charismatic protagonists, whose artistic (and monetary) value increases with eyes seen in Hollywood. Completely unconventional romance, the film is, without any favors, a revelation in the midst of so much pseudo-artistic nonsense that tries to give ballast of a love film to completely disposable productions.
In one of his most inspired works, David O. Russell brings together two young and handsome stars of contemporary cinema without the slightest bit of ceremony to pass them off as misfit types, in psychiatric predicaments serious enough to be regarded even with a certain revulsion, and from then, hone them, remove the layers of mental illness — diagnosed, but treated in fits and starts — in order to let the beauty of what they want to convey blossom. The plot, released in Brazil on February 8, 2013, presents a Bradley Cooper very different from what he is used to seeing in the movies since the actor appeared on television, in the silly “Sex and the City”, in 1999. Building a career with With a lot of discipline, brick by brick, Cooper may have landed the best role of his professional career in “Silver Linings Playbook”. His character, Professor Patrizio Solitano Jr., Pat, lends himself to an almost pioneering role.
Speaking of the mental disorder triggered by a man who, after catching his wife in the shower with another, Russell knew very well the risks he would be exposing himself to. Obviously, Pat flies over the subject—an event that the director rightly only suggests—and the (unconscious) demonstration of virility and honesty costs him dearly. The protagonist is admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he stays for eight months, loses his job at the school where his wife’s lover, Nikki (Brea Bee), also taught and, ironically, cannot stop loving her, if he tries to. Because he is forced to comply with the restrictive measure that forces him to keep at least 150 meters away from his now ex-spouse, he has to submit to live with his parents, Dolores (played by Australian actress Jacki Weaver, already experienced, and in a big way, both here and in 2010’s “Animal Kingdom,” directed by compatriot David Michôd) and Pat Sr. (by Robert De Niro, who needs no introduction, but who performs much less than expected, even worse compared to Weaver, with whom he works more assiduously and lifts the ball that the veteran is not always able to cut).
The first anticlimax of the script is marked by the entry of Jennifer Lawrence on the scene, never expendable nor free. Tiffany, her character, loses her police husband prematurely and violently, trauma to which she responds by going to bed with all her colleagues in the office where she worked, which also results in her being fired. Introduced at a dinner hosted by her sister, Veronica (Julia Stiles), and her husband, Ronnie (John Ortiz), Pat and Tiffany soon succumb to the attraction that only two individuals with such peculiar characteristics can develop for each other.
Pat and Tiffany’s transition from villains to good guys and vice versa is the film’s main theme. Demolishing solid foundations of the society in which they are inserted, each in their own way, the duo compose dense characters, on which it is impossible to formulate any conclusions hastily. Russell’s calculated irony in presenting Pat as a madman precisely for exhibiting the behavior expected of any normal person and assaulting the man who had sex with his wife—and his dignity, unconscious or voluntary, in not inflicting the same punishment on the adulteress, which, of course, would not be justified — it finds support in the self-destructive reaction portrayed in Tiffany’s promiscuity. He, cleansing his honor with the blood of the man who had defiled his marriage, becomes worthy of eight months’ isolation in a madhouse; she, in turn, indulging herself without measure in the promiscuous behavior caused by her husband’s absence, receives the family’s condemnation and begins to live in a small house, at the back of the property where her parents live. In other words, they are hopelessly lost.
As they grow closer, Pat and Tiffany discover the many points of contact in their personalities, as well as what repels them from each other. From the first moment, Cooper’s character makes it clear that, despite all the misfortune that befell him, he still loved Nikki, an argument that Tiffany pretends to accept, but intuiting, correctly, that it can reach the professor’s heart. In an attempt to get back together with Nikki, Pat decides to write a letter apologizing for all the inconvenience it may have caused her, proposing, as if that were even possible, that they start over where they had been forced to stop. Since Veronica is Nikki’s friend, Tiffany offers to persuade her sister to deliver the message, as long as Pat agrees to be her date in a dance contest. What can be seen in the sequence, with variations in intensity and focus, is the meeting of two actors whose chemistry has already given rise to a lot of gossip, but who never went beyond a disinterested friendship and, of course, memorable scenes in “O Lado Bom da Vida”, repeated three more times — in “American Hustle” (2013) and “Joy: The Name of Success” (2015), also directed by David O. Russell, and “Serena” (2014), by Susanne Bier. From the rehearsals for the contest, which lead to a deliciously sui generis presentation, the high point of the film, the two actors offer the audience sublime performances, more Cooper than Lawrence, let’s say. Not enjoying the star appeal that his colleague enjoys, the actor literally had to shimmy to keep the audience’s interest in his character, a feat he achieves without so much effort. His choice for a minimalist performance, giving Tiffany the space to speak out at the right time, is his killer strategy. Bradley Cooper uses his physical gifts, his piercing gaze, his sweet voice, to highlight Pat’s fragility, which could make him slide into terrifying clumsiness. Certain of his talent, he is not intimidated by the artistic stature of Jennifer Lawrence and shows an impeccable performance, which moves because it denotes the force imprisoned behind a man broken by life – which would give him all the credentials for, at least, the Oscar nomination, as she did, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role in 2013.
“O Lado Bom da Vida”, however, does not conform to being a dispute between two great actors, much less a war of egos, in fact, on the contrary. All the elements work together, providing a cohesive, one, round, accurate whole, through which the idea of reconstructing life becomes very clear to the spectator. And that of the reordering of affections, however improbable it may be.
Movie: The good side of life
Direction: David O. Russell