Toronto: Weinstein Finds 'Silver Linings' At World Premiere For Another Oscar Race

As the Toronto International Film Festival maintains its intense pace, the race for Oscar is clearly heating up. And after last night’s rousing world premiere for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, you can chalk up yet another major Best Picture contender. The tweets about its inevitable awards potential began almost immediately. The response to this strikingly original and human film was ecstatic, not only during the screening and standing ovation but from everyone I cornered at the Soho House after-party – including several awards pundits who are supposed to be jaded about such things.

Harvey’s Silver Linings almost certainly puts stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in contention for acting nominations. Lawrence and Cooper play two very broken people trying to put their lives back together by helping each other. It reminded me of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine  in The Apartment (1960), deftly navigating the tricky terrain of a film that can change tone from comedy to drama on a dime without ever seeming forced. Both simply inhabit these characters and make a great screen team. And just like Lemmon and MacLaine did after The Apartment when they reteamed on Irma La Douce, Cooper told me they have already completed a second film together, Serena.

Lawrence leaps to the front of the pack with a revelatory performance that seemed to knock most observers out. Cooper also was terrific in a challenging role in The Place Beyond The Pines (acquired today by Focus Features). He had nothing but praise for his co-star who at just 22 years old takes on a part that would challenge much older stars. Writer-director David O. Russell told me  at the after-party she was actually a last-minute casting. “We were seeing just about every major actress for the role but thought she was just too young. Then when she ‘Skyped’ in her audition from her home, there was no question. Lawrence was nominated for Best Actress for Winter’s Bone (2009) and should start preparing now to go through it all over again. So should Russell who was in the Oscar race with The Fighter two years ago for the first time and should be right back in there this year.

The film involves a big (and hilarious) dance sequence for Cooper and Lawrence which Cooper says helped the chemistry between them. Any free time they had during the relatively quick shoot was spent trying to learn the complicated steps. The highest praise I can offer is that there isn’t a moment when either of them can be caught acting. The same goes for Robert De Niro as Cooper’s father. The two-time Oscar winner seems more energized in the role than he has in years – and it shows on screen. There was immediate talk of a Best Supporting nomination for De Niro’s best work in a long, long time.

Donna Gigliotti, a former Weinstein executive who also won a Best Picture Oscar for Shakespeare In Love, produced with Jonathan Gordon and Bruce Cohen, another Oscar winner for American Beauty. She brought Cohen into the picture to supervise the Philadelphia shoot.  Weinstein marketing head Stephen Bruno told me the company is going to open the film wide on November 21st, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. And they expect word of mouth will be one big factor in getting audiences to see a film that doesn’t translate easily to 30-second ad spots. In a year with a lot of downer movies, this one should be sold as an ‘upper’. Critical response should help, too

Harvey Weinstein seems pumped to try for a threepeat after winning back to back Best Picture Oscars for The King’s Speech (2010) and The Artist (2011). The studios are really gunning for him this year. But with The Master, Quentin Tarantino’s December release Django Unchained, and now Silver Linings Playbookhe has a lineup of contenders. Not to mention foreign-language hopeful The Intouchables and Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet which premieres here tonight. As we talked, I could see Harvey getting worked up just at the thought of starting another awards season, his favorite time of year. “What a race this is gonna be! What a race! What a race!” he repeated as he walked off to soak up the reaction to another successful night in Toronto.

Related: Toronto Oscar Talk-Affleck’s ‘Argo’ & Anderson’s ‘The Master’

Obviously Weinstein was in a very good mood when I talked to him. Another of his other big Oscar contenders, The Master, had won three big awards at Venice earlier in the day despite the latest jury scandal there. Weinstein explained the panel wanted to give The Master the top Golden Lion prize but also acting awards. And when the jury found out they couldn’t do both, they awarded Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman thesp prizes and Paul Thomas Anderson the Silver Lion for Best Director. (Plus it won a critics prize). “Do you think, given the choice of having the Golden Lion or seeing his actors rewarded, that Paul Thomas Anderson would want it any other way?,” Weinstein said. “We are totally fine with all of this and thrilled about what we got in Venice.”

  1. Mark my words. Perks of Being a Wallflower won’t be ignored much longer. It got an enthusiastic standing ovation last night. Amazing performances by the three leads.

  2. Going to be a big year for this film. It’s got so much heart, and hear testing was through the roof. Chemistry btwn Cooper and Lawrence is electric and there’s going to be a lot of love to see de Niro back on top.

  3. Just more proof that Jen Lawrence is worthy of the praise she has been getting for years. Even those who didn’t count THG as one of their favorite films indicated that she was great as Katniss. I’m glad to see her sucessfully doing both big budget and indie films. @Sara I’m looking forward to seeing this as well as Perks.

    1. Well, I wouldn’t go that far. She is definitely a strong contender for a nomination, but far from being the frontrunner. There are already several serious players in the mix like Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) and yes, Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) BUT there are a few who, despite being in small indie films, are already gaining buzz like Maggie Smith (Quartet), Julianne Moore (What Maisie Knew), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Elle Fanning (Ginger and Rosa), not to mention unseen contenders with great potential, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Sally Field (Lincoln), Viola Davis & Maggie Gyllenhaal (Won’t Back Down), Amy Adams (Trouble with the Curve), Vanessa Redgrave (Song for Marion), Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations).

      Granted, a few of these turns will end up in the supporting race. My guess for the Best Actress top5 is Cotillard, Knightley, Wallis, Watts and Lawrence, with Chastain, Moore, Davis close behind, and Hunt, Redgrave, Gyllenhaal, Field, Grainger ending up in the supporting race, with only Hunt and Field making the top5, accompanied by Amy Adams (The Master), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) and Helena Bonham Carter (Great Expectations), although I wouldn’t count out Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Olivia Wilde (Butter), Reese Witherspoon (Mud), Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), Samantha Barks & Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables), Kerry Washington (Django Unchained) and Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy), either.

      Oh, how lovely it STILL is in early September…hopefully the whole Oscar race won’t be painfully obvious by the time the nominations are announced.

      1. If Wallis is nominated it will be an absolute travesty. She didn’t do any acting, didn’t learn any lines, didn’t get into the head of another person. The director simply had her improve in front of the camera being herself, sometimes not even telling her the camera was rolling. It was like that old Carole Reed film, Fallen Idol, where the kid did not know the first thing about acting. Further, the kid is way too young. Look what the nomination did to that kid from Whale Rider, another travesty from a pandering film.

        Streep would be another travesty. Hope Springs was not even that well received. Nominating her just because of her name is a joke. And it is an act we’ve seen before with Jack Nicholson. Their careers don’t need the help, and they shouldn’t be nominated simply based on habit.

        It would be great if the Academy would stop rewarding Oscar formula films. Rust & Bone sounds like one of those fake Oscar films in Naked Gun. And being nominated for Anna Karenina (again met with mixed reviews) is as creative as being nominated for Jane Austen. Oh wait…

        I’m always happiest when an actor takes a risk on something outside the box and gets rewarded. Those are the most memorable performances anyway, not the formulaic stuff. It would be refreshing if the Academy pays less attention to the “type” of film and just rewards the performance. (Playing a cripple in a wheel chair is about as interesting as going full retard). But as long as Wallis isn’t nominated , which would be a disservice to everyone, especially her, I guess I could live with it.

      2. Rashida Jones in Celeste and Jesse Forever gave a strong performance. Not enough money behind it but it was remarkably nuanced and tough to deliver. Definitely the bright spot there. Diane Keaton after all won for Annie Hall…

    2. Rust & Bones, the uplifting story of a woman tragically confined to a wheelchair who rediscovers finds the will to live, yadda, yadda yadda. Sorry, but that sounds like an absolute parody of a stereotypical, Oscar-baiting film. Even if it’s well done, it’s still a pure cliche. I prefer stuff that is a bit quirkier and less paint-by-numbers.

  4. I believe Marion Cotillard and Lawrence will be nominated for best actress for sure. Really impressive performances from these ladies

  5. It would be pretty cool if jennifer lawrence won the big award. So talented and yet isn’t cookie cutter in any way.

  6. It’s not David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” It’s Matthew Quick’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” adapted for the screen by David O. Russell.

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