The 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival‘s opening night film, Silver Linings Playbook, is a love letter to the town. Set and shot in Philly, the dramedy stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro. It won the coveted Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and has since received lots of Oscar buzz.
I was thrilled to see the film on October 18, 2012, more than a month before its official opening date of November 21, and what better place than the city where it’s based? None of the lead actors were able to attend – not even Cooper, Philly’s native son. Luckily, director and screenwriter David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), producer Bruce Cohen, and Matthew Quick, author of the book by the same title, were all able to be there. Quick is a Philadelphia native, too.
The movie is showing at a number of festivals around the world, but Philly is the only screening where landmarks will be applauded and cheered. In fact, many of the extras were in the audience, as well as the family that owns the home used in the movie.
At the Q&A after the screening, director Russell said he loves location scouting, especially when looking for real homes to use for his films. He asked a local in the audience to stand — a man who ended up being hired as a Philadelphia Eagles football team consultant for the movie. The Eagles figure largely in the story, and this man apparently is a homegrown enthusiast / expert. Russell becomes attached to many of the people he meets while shooting films on location and has maintained long-term friendships with them.
Mark Wahlberg was originally attached to play the lead that eventually went to Cooper. “I love Mark,” Russell said. “We’ve made three movies together. Then, it was going to work out; then it wasn’t going to work out for a number of reasons that were out of my hands.”
“Bradley and I had been talking for a while. He was very eager to show a lot of dimension as an actor. It’s a very good role for him,” Russell added. “I saw Bradley as a very angry guy in Wedding Crashers, and then, I thought, ‘What’s underneath there?’ When I met him, there’s a lot underneath there. He’s a very smart, emotional guy from Jenkintown.” (The mention of Jenkintown, a Philadelphia neighborhood, evoked cheers from the audience.)
Because Wahlberg had to leave the project, Cooper was brought in at the last minute and had little time to prepare. He has said that he was a bit insecure at first about his ability to pull off the role. Russell stressed that this insecurity is common among actors. “Every actor I’ve ever met from Dustin Hoffman to Christian Bale — some of the greatest actors in the world — tell me that the day they show up, they always say, ‘Oh, my God, I have no idea how to do this.’ Then, they figure it out. It takes a lot of courage.”
Of Jennifer Lawrence, Russell said that they first felt she was too young for the part, but she Skyped an audition to him. “She knocked us out,” he said. Cooper and Lawrence would have attended the Philly screening except that Cooper was shooting The Hangover Part III, and Lawrence was shooting The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. “I don’t have a franchise that starts with an H,” Russell joked.
Editing of the film took six months even though they shot all of the footage in 33 days. After the shoot is over, Russell said, “You sit down in the editing room and say, ‘Oh my God, now I have to make the movie all over again’ because you have to sift through all that material.”
Producer Cohen said, “David shoots a lot of footage and gives the actors lots of different alternate ways to do the scene and lets them sort of go with scenes. So, when you get into the editing room, there’s a lot of different choices. So, the movie went into a bunch of different directions, and we sort of gradually figured out how we wanted it to go.”
Three months ago, Russell said, certain moments weren’t in the movie, but now, he can’t imagine the film without those moments.
Quick is pleased with the adaptation of his book. “If you listen to the audio book of Silver Linings Playbook, it’s 6-1/2 hours long,” he said. “So, of course, if you try to put everything in the movie, it would be a 7-hour movie. Of course, that’s not going to fly. So, David’s task was to take that and to create something visual that would occupy two hours on the screen. And I think he did a fantastic job of adapting the film.”
The film begins when Pat (Cooper) is released from a mental hospital. Let’s just say he has few social skills and struggles to keep his anger in check. DeNiro plays his father, and it looks like Dad isn’t much better in the mental health department.
Enter Tiffany (Lawrence), who isn’t exactly the picture of mental health herself. Tiffany and Pat clash and bond in a wild but heartwarming ride that climaxes with a positively wackadoodle dance sequence. Their relationship is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the screen.
Silver Linings Playbook is quirky in the way that Russell’s previous film, Flirting with Disaster, is quirky. All of the actors give stellar performances, and you’ll probably be surprised by both Cooper and Lawrence. DeNiro serves up his best work in years as a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic (and I mean fanatic!) Without a doubt, it’s one of the must-sees of the year.
The Philadelphia Film Festival runs through October 28, 2012 and includes appearances by several luminaries in cinema, including Robert Zemeckis and M. Night Shyamalan. Check out a few trailers below of some of the films screened during the Festival.
The Sessions has received Oscar buzz for stars Helen Hunt and John Hawkes. It’s the story of a man who is ill and hires a sex surrogate so that he can lose his virginity.
War Witch is the harrowing story of a 14-year-old girl child soldier in Africa.
Stand Up Guys is a comedy starring Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Alan Arkin, directed by Fisher Stevens. ‘Nuff said.
Quartet is Dustin Hoffman’s feature film directing debut, and it stars the great Maggie Smith.