Of all the cinematic revelations you’ll have this holiday season, few will surprise you more than the fact that Bradley Cooper is the real deal.
Best known for playing jerks (“Wedding Crashers”), cheaters (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), party animals (“The Hangover”) and action heroes (“The A-Team”), the formerly range-less 37-year-old Philadelphia native has suddenly emerged as an Oscars frontrunner for his stunning performance in director David O. Russell’s new film “Silver Linings Playbook.”
“He was an interesting actor to me because of how credibly angry he was in ‘Wedding Crashers,’” Russell during an interview at the 21st Philadelphia Film Festival. “In a way that was intimidating to me as a person.”
“When I met him, he told me that that had been at a time in his life when he was hiding behind his anger and he had other things going on – emotions, fears that were going on; that he hid behind the anger and sarcasm.” Russell continued. “I found that, already, a big soulful person.”
In the film, which is based on the 2008 novel by Philly native Matthew Quick, Cooper plays Pat Solitano Jr., a bipolar Philadelphia teacher who is sent to a mental health facility after nearly killing his wife’s lover. Eight months into his treatment, Pat is removed from the institution and returns home to live with his doting mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro), an ultra-superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan. As Pat stubbornly holds out hope of reconciling with his wife, his situation becomes complicated by an equally damaged young woman (Jennifer Lawrence).
Russell, who has a son with bipolar disorder, handles the serious subject matter with skilled precision and a surprising sense of humor, expertly balancing the abrasive nuances of Pat’s disorder with the inspirational charm of a man simply trying to be better. Beyond his skills as a filmmaker, which earned him an Oscar nomination for “The Fighter,” Russell rightly credits Cooper for making his character both unbearable and sympathetic.
“He has a character actor quality to him. He’s not perfectly symmetrical, like Johnny Depp or something. From certain angles, he looks like a character actor,” Russell explained. “We knew that we were re-introducing him. That was part of the excitement of the film – is that his character is reintroducing himself to his community and insisting that they take another look at him, that they don’t, in fact, know him.”
He continued: “It’s sort of intense, sad and soulful. And that’s not the guy from ‘The Hangover.’ That’s not the guy smiling at you from the cover of People magazine.”
And this February, if the highly political world of movie awards season turns as it should, that guy from “The Hangover” – that perpetual jerk-turned-real deal – will likely reintroducing himself to film fans as an Academy Award nominee.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.