On Sunday, David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" joined the throng of potential Oscar contenders. The acclaimed dramedy, which hits theaters Nov. 21, took home the BlackBerry People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Based on Matthew Quick's 2008 novel of the same name, "Silver Linings Playbook" tells the story of a former schoolteacher grappling with bipolar disorder. After completing a treatment program at a mental health facility, he moves in with her parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver). As he struggles to put the pieces of his life back together, he befriends a young widow (Jennifer Lawrence). The two bond over their respective mental illnesses-she has a long history of depression-and find solace in one another's company.
Russell's previous work includes "Flirting With Disaster," (1996), "Three Kings," (1999), and "The Fighter" (2010), which took home two Academy Awards.
"Silver Linings Playbook" is similar to "Flirting with Disaster" in that in makes light of family dysfunction. It marks Russell's return to lighter fare-his last black comedy was 2004's "I Heart Huckabees." If the reviews of the film are any indication, the director's latest venture is an overwhelming success.
"While David O. Russell's foray into conventional drama with 'The Fighter' was a richly satisfying knockout, it's a joy to see him back in the off-kilter comedy realm with the wonderful 'Silver Linings Playbook,'" writes David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter. "The chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence makes them a delight to watch, their spiky rapport failing to conceal a mutual attraction."
"Cooper brings enormous heart to a role that easily might have veered toward the abrasive, and Lawrence shows off natural comic chops that we haven't seen much from her," says Kevin Jagernauth of Indie Wire. "There's self-exposure and risk in both these actors' work here, which makes for rewarding comedy.
"We've frankly never seen Cooper in a role like this, one that requires him to not only to carry the film," Jagernauth continues, "but to play a nuanced character in Pat who is big in personality, but also tremendously vulnerable. Lawrence may be an even bigger surprise to many as Tiffany, a young woman who is sexy, tough and also easily bruised, who not only has to manage Pat's unpredictable nature, but also keep herself on an even keel to stop from sliding into self-destructive tendencies."
Variety's Justin Chang notes that the comedic tone of the film doesn't detract from its poignant illustration of mental illness.
"While the pic's willingness to make light of Pat's disorder may give some pause (at one point, he and Tiffany bond over which meds they have and haven't taken)," said Chang, "it doesn't soft-pedal his journey to rock-bottom, and Russell's technique so bristlingly evokes the character's mental state that one feels sympathetically swept up in his experience rather than positioned outside it."
According to the Huffington Post, both Cooper and Lawrence (who was nominated for Best Actress in "Winter's Bone" in 2011) have been generating Oscar buzz for their performances. As The Wrap points out, the fact that "Silver Linings" nabbed the coveted People's Choice Award at TIFF bodes well for the film come awards season.
"American Beauty," (1999) "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "The King's Speech" (2010) took home the award at the festival and went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Other recent winners, such as "Precious" (2009) and "Eastern Promises" (2007) went on to earn several Oscar nominations. According to TIFF's official site, over two dozen People's Choice winners have received Oscar nominations while ten have received the Best Picture honor.