This week’s biggest new titles on Netflix include two Oscar-winning performances. First up is “Silver Linings Playbook,” David O. Russell’s 2012 film starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (the latter of which won Best Actress) as two unstable individuals who wind up falling in love. The film’s uplifting ending skirts over its heroes’ mental illnesses too much, as if love was the cure for bipolar disorder, but Cooper and Lawrence are winning in the lead roles, the supporting cast (including Robert De Niro in his best performance in years) is excellent, and Russell’s film, while more conventional than his best films (“Three Kings,” “I Heart Huckabees”), is still one of the most satisfying romantic comedies of the past several years.
The second film is “Beginners,” in which graphic artist Ewan McGregor learns, shortly after the death of his mother, that his father (Christopher Plummer) is a gay man, and that he wants to explore his sexuality now. The film jumps back and forth between Plummer’s adventures, his discovery of his terminal cancer shortly thereafter, and McGregor’s romance with Melanie Laurent following his father’s death. Director Mike Mills lays on the adorableness pretty thick, but the film is worth seeing for Plummer’s phenomenal Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winning performance, one that shows the delight of self-discovery late in life. Both “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Beginners” hit Netflix today.
Also out on Netflix today is the little-loved Anne Hathaway/Jim Sturgess romance “One Day” from “An Education” director Lone Scherfig. Those less interested in romance could perhaps wait until Thursday (or, then again, don’t) for the sci-fi/horror film “The Colony,” starring Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton. A better bet for genre fans might be the uneven but charming 2007 fantasy film “Stardust,” an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name featuring another one of Robert De Niro’s better late-period roles as a merry transvestite sky-pirate (yes, really). In fact, why not marathon “Stardust” and “Silver Linings Playbook” to see De Niro go from silly to taking himself seriously (if still very funny) and show that when he tries, he can still be great.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film
“Alongside the powerful human drama at its heart, ‘Beginners’ is intriguing due to the way it situates gay experiences and gay history as part of the mainstream and looks at the way the wounds inflicted by historical homophobia have shaped wider society. The awkward attempts at understanding between Oliver and his father’s boyfriend Andy (Goran Visnjic) reveal the ways in which prejudice can create paranoia and the need to make allowances that is essential to any successful adult relationship. There is a suggestion that alternative relationship models long accepted within the gay community are gradually coming to seem like an option for others, and with this comes an awareness that all romances exist within the context of other, often equally important emotional affiliations.” Read more.
Josh Larsen, LarsenOnFilm.com
“Scruffy and screwed-up – like most of its characters – ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is an encouraging effort from writer-director David O. Russell. With this story of two emotionally unstable friends (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence), Russell takes the grimy realism of his last picture – the Oscar tart The Fighter – and matches it to the zaniness that was the hallmark of his earlier, better films. It’s maturity by way of mania.” Read more.