Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Hustle"-d, or: An Appreciation of Bradley Cooper

This post is coming in response not only to Bradley Cooper's recent Oscar nomination - his second - in Best Supporting Actor for his role in American Hustle, but also to the news today that he would be starring in the latest Broadway revival of The Elephant Man this fall. The role of John Merrick is one that he is apparently very passionate about, having performed it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2012 as well as for a 30-minute senior thesis. Unlike David Lynch's 1980 film adaptation, in which John Hurt had heavy makeup applied to him, Cooper will be suggesting Merrick's deformities through the way he moves his body. It also won't be Cooper's first appearance on Broadway, as he previously starred in Three Days of Rain with Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd in 2006.

Here's the thing: even three years ago, if you had told me I would be writing a blog post about great Bradley Cooper performances, I probably definitely would have laughed in your face. And it actually was suggested to me; as Limitless was making its debut in March 2011, a friend recommended the film to me on Facebook (shameless plug: like TEJ here!). I still haven't see it yet (sorry), but I can say that I was floored by the intensity he brought to Silver Linings Playbook in 2012. I still think he was the MVP of that film, and his performance was much more astonishing than that of his co-star, Best Actress Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, if only because I was already aware of what Lawrence could do. It surprised me that not only was he Oscar-nominated for the role, but that I was happy to see him nominated.

One year later, he's nominated again, this time for American Hustle. He's actually even better here, as the tightly-wound FBI agent Richie DiMaso, a man who - like SLP's Pat - is constantly on the verge of a psychotic break. This, so far, has seemed to be the type of character Cooper is best at, and he completely owns these roles in both films. I would even go so far as to say that he's the MVP of American Hustle as well, providing a jolt of tension anytime he's on screen (for what it's worth, I'm still flip-flopping between him and Christian Bale for the film's best performance).

The common denominator in those two films, of course, is director David O. Russell, and it may be that he's the one who gets the best work out of Cooper. I doubt that's the case: he had a great part in The Place Beyond the Pines earlier this year, even though it wasn't exceptionally well-developed. However, I'm genuinely impressed with his recent performances, and with his return to the stage, hopefully he'll avoid the stupid frat comedies that made him a star (The Hangover) and push himself with more diverse and challenging roles.

1 comment:

Shane Slater said...

I'm now fully on board with the Bradley Cooper fandom too. He has thoroughly proven himself with SLP, The Place Beyond the Pines and American Hustle. I'm looking forward to what he does next.