SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK directed by David O. Russell, written by Russell from the novel by Matthew Quick, with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker and Robert De Niro. An Alliance Films release. 120 minutes. Opens Wednesday (November 21). For venues and times, see Movies.
It's a few days into the Toronto Film Festival, well before David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook wins the Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award. Right now, the movie's just a buzzy Gala Presentation that's divided critics and pumped up audiences.
Still, it's a sign of the film's growing heat that its overbooked Canadian press day has been collapsed into a single half-hour press conference. A dozen or so reporters are crammed into a hotel room with stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and their director, David O. Russell, who seems so uncomfortable in the cramped space that he barely makes eye contact with anyone for the first 10 minutes, as Cooper and Lawrence field most of the questions.
Eventually, though, Russell relaxes enough to discuss his movie, a sort of neighbourhood fable about the unstable Pat (Cooper) who moves back home with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) after the dissolution of his marriage and a breakdown that led to his institutionalization. A chance meeting with a young widow (Lawrence) gives Pat new purpose and a potential path back to normal life.
"It was about people I really related to," Russell says of Matthew Quick's novel, which Sydney Pollack gave him in 2008. "They were very intense, and they were extremely raw. They said what they were feeling - it wasn't clean; it was messy. Both these characters wear their emotions on their sleeves, and they tell the truth whether it's pleasant or unpleasant, whether it's going to make them look good or not."
To get the appropriate harshness and realism, Russell gave his actors one piece of direction.
"David has this way of telling you, ‘Make it gangster,'" Cooper laughs. "‘Just make it real. Just kick away all the bullshit and make it real.' And when that starts to happen, it gets funny, actually. That's when the rhythm happens - it gets funny, tragic and real. It becomes like life, and that's when people can relate to it. And everything else takes care of itself."
"We were constantly on our toes, we were constantly on our feet," Lawrence says. "We could be so honest with each other - like, more honest than any movie I've ever been on. I don't even really want to work in another way."
For Russell's part, he's just happy he found a pair of stars willing to change things up on the set.
"I find there's two kinds of actors," the director explains. "There's actors who like to do what Robert De Niro calls ‘bedroom perfect' - you know, it was perfect in their bedroom back when they were working on it at their hotel. I don't work that well with those actors. I just want to figure out what's gonna happen right here [in the moment]. And that is very frightening, because it means you don't have anything to hold on to; what's inside is gonna come outside of you. And these guys are both built that way.
"The very first day she showed up," Russell continues, nodding at Lawrence, "we had been in it for a while, we were really in this thing, and then here comes Jennifer, running down the street in this black overcoat, into the scene. It was just really funny, like, ‘Oh, right, the female lead is in the movie now.' She very quickly just got right with it. It's one of my favourite scenes in the movie, that conversation between the two of them on the street."
"Yeah, that sticks in my mind so much, too," Cooper says, turning to Lawrence. "You just came in, and bam!"
"It was probably just the volume of my voice."