Oscar Worthy: ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Photo: The Weinstein Co.

In the past week I have received seven emails with new TV spots and/or trailers for David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook, a film I saw and loved in Toronto and remains the only narrative feature I’ve given an “A+” this year (read my review here).

Originally slated to be released wide on November 21, the Weinstein Co. opted for a limited release this weekend and the buzz is brewing all over the Internet as new interviews with the cast and director bubble up and more critics are given the chance to see a movie that harkens back to a lost era of adult romantic comedies that manages to be just as dramatic as it is romantic and comedic.

Since seeing it I’ve been convinced Jennifer Lawrence will win Best Actress for her portrayal of Tiffany and the film remains a top five contender for Best Picture, but in the face of Oscar fare such as Les Miserables and Lincoln does it stand much of a chance? Not having seen Django Unchained just yet, Silver Linings is currently the Weinstein’s best chance for a Best Picture Oscar win, so yes, it has a chance, but it’s going to need some help.

To begin, Lawrence is the first stop most will make when considering the film’s Oscar chances and the most prominent interview she’s given thus far is Melena Ryzik’s latest feature at the New York Times in which she credits Russell with helping her find Tiffany’s persona:

“David is inside every one of these characters,” she said. He even persuaded her to speak in a lower register — a feat because she doesn’t like her naturally deep voice. “I think I sound like a hermit,” she said, “a deep, chain-smoking hermit.”

Russell and co-star Bradley Cooper discussed Lawrence in a new interview with Esquire in the following exchange:

Russell: Did you talk about Jennifer [Lawrence]? Very strong instincts.

Cooper: It’s uncanny. Twenty-two years old.

Esquire: She’s a baby.

Cooper: Her truth meter is severe. We would defer to her when we were trying to figure things out and she’d be like: Bam!

Russell: You don’t know what the fuck’s going on with her. You talk to her and you think she’s just hanging out, but she’s like Joe DiMaggio. She gets on the field and you’re like, What the fuck just happened? She came in and hit a triple and then walked off and acted like nothing’s happening. Sometimes she sounds like a 40-year-old, and then she says something that reminds you that she’s not. And you think, Am I getting into a serious conversation with you? Go fuck yourself, punk. Go learn a couple things before you talk to me that way.

Russell made similar, less vulgar comments regarding her confidence with the “Times” saying, “Jennifer is one of the least neurotic people I know… She always offers her opinion. She’s not afraid to talk to anybody about anything, and yet she can also turn around and have an 18-year-old’s ‘nevermind.’ That’s their version of being vulnerable.”

Robert De Niro is also, and rightly so, earning plenty of praise for his work in the film, work I currently have rated at #3 on my Best Supporting Actor charts and A.O. Scott at the New York Times is suggesting critics saying Silver Linings is a comeback for the actor are way off base. “[A] survey of the last four decades of movie history reveals that De Niro has never slackened, diminished or gone away but has rather, year in and year out, amassed a body of work marked by a seriousness and attention to detail that was there from the start.”

I actually disagree with Scott on that point, but fully endorse his interpretation of De Niro’s character: “His character, Pat Solitano Sr., is a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic whose dream of domestic peace is undermined by his emotionally unstable son (Cooper) and his own volatility. Pat is a reminder that De Niro, an unmatched master of brooding silence and quiet menace, can also be an agile comedian and a prodigious talker.”

Other acting nods the film will hope to acquire include Bradley Cooper and Jacki Weaver playing Pat’s mother. David O. Russell is definitely in the hunt for another Director nod and Russell’s screenplay is an easy pick in the Adapted category.

But what of Best Picture? Right now I have it ranked #4 behind Les Miserables, Lincoln and Argo, the first two being standard Oscar fodder and Argo being a front-runner in many circles.

The problem Silver Linings faces is its measure of froth mixed with drama. There’s a faction looking at it solely as a comedy, which I believe is to overlook the nuanced drama without. There’s no doubt it’s cliched, but the cliches work in that they don’t shy from tough subjects, but merely offer the only “out” in situations that feel every bit as melodramatic as they do realistic.

Silver Linings is a perfect mixture of writing, performance, direction, cliche, drama, romance and comedy. With movies you are dropped in a fictional world and the only importance is to believe you are truly in that world and the characters remain true to their surroundings. Silver Linings captures this truth and runs with it and I can only hope that it will become a greater piece of the Oscar puzzle and manage to rise above or at least to the same playing field as the musical and the biopic that are sure to command this year’s race.

It may be one thing to know and predict the winner, but it’s every bit as fun to have a horse to cheer for.

To read my review of Silver Linings Playbook click here.

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