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.