Surprisingly awful. I was so looking forward to this movie because I like Bradley Cooper and JLaw and *DANCE*, but I had to admit, the trailer ran cold for me. The joke about Hemingway's sad endings is so hackneyed and artless that I was afraid the rest of the script would be as banal. And it was.
I generally hate those "two fucked-up people save each other" kinds of movies anyway. Like "Lars and the Real Girl," this movie smacks of being written by somebody who knows nothing about mental illness. Throw in a crazy outburst here, throw in a cathartic crying scene there, a dash of creepy quiet here and a sprinkling of antisocial behavior there, and you've got a cocktail for a superficial, seemingly true and relevant movie.
The performances are all fine. Bradley Cooper cries cathartically and gets all creepy quiet, but the role is just a charisma vacuum. There's nothing going on behind the eyes, and one can argue that a more talented actor could have done the part justice, but perhaps nothing IS ALLOWED to go on behind the eyes. The dialogue and Pat's bi-polar disturbance just lacks verve and opportunity.
JLaw sells Tiffany's crazy outbursts and whorish, antisocial behavior, but Tiffany herself is a character solely defined by those actions. Why is she so into dance? What else does she do? What was her marriage to Tommy like? What causes her to fall for Pat and vice versa? Why does she forge Nikki's letter, and how does that garner Pat's favor? There is so little development of the central romance.
The dance climax isn't even that satisfying. First, the whole bet plot just feels pseudo-quirky. Why dance? Second, the dance is neither that bad or that good, in terms of choreo- and cinemato- graphy. There are so few shots of the footwork, and the judges' scores are so comically different (4.8s and suddenly a 5.4) that winning the bet with an average of 5 is just a manipulative gimme. There are other moments of manipulation as well: Tiffany always running past Pat and startling him; the camera's excessive zooms. There is also no consequence to Tiffany getting trashed right before their performance. And they say the titular phrase "silver linings" way too much.
Everything about the movie lacks a motor. It's just a pretty-looking cocktail that tastes less topical as you go on.