“Silver Linings Playbook” has thus far been greeted with excellent reviews, enthusiastic audience reaction and strong box office performance in limited release.
But can it achieve something we haven’t seen in more than thirty years — receive an Oscar nomination in every acting category?
Since the supporting categories were introduced for the film year of 1936, a total of 13 lucky pictures have managed to do the trick: “My Man Godfrey,” “Mrs. Miniver,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Johnny Belinda,” ‘Sunset Boulevard,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “From Here to Eternity,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “Network,” “Coming Home” and “Reds.”
For a number of years, it seemed to happen fairly regularly. Now it’s almost unheard of. It’s possible that could change this year. Not with Best Picture frontrunners “Argo” or “Les Miserables,” but with the smaller-scale “Silver Linings Playbook.” It’s far from a sure thing, but it may be more plausible than people realize.
Here’s a look at its Oscar playbook.
There are two “Silver” actors who now seem virtually assured of earning nominations. Two-time winner Robert De Niro delivers his finest performance in years as the loving but sometimes reckless father. It’s been more than twenty years since he scored his last bid, for 1991’s “Cape Fear.” This year, he might already be considered the early favorite to win Best Supporting Actor. (He previously won this category for playing the young Vito Corleone in 1974’s “The Godfather Part II.”)
And Jennifer Lawrence is back just two years after receiving her first nod for her breakout turn in “Winter’s Bone.” The Best Actress field isn’t terribly strong this year, meaning support for “Silver” will likely land her in the top five. Many say that she’s a lock to win, though it may be a bit early to make that kind of call.
Meanwhile, Jacki Weaver could be in for another invite to the former Kodak Theatre, two years after being nominated for her acclaimed work in the Australian “Animal Kingdom.” Her part in “Silver” is smaller and less dramatic than that of onscreen husband De Niro, but she’s simply wonderful. Even her frequent reaction shots with no dialogue speak volumes. With the Best Supporting Actress race looking surprisingly weak, Weaver just might make it in.
The real wild card is, of course, Bradley Cooper. The star of “The Hangover” movies and last year’s “Sexiest Man Alive” has never been known as a top-tier thespian. But with his performance in “Silver,” perhaps that will change. As a troubled man coping with bipolar disorder, family conflict and relationship issues, Cooper is absolutely brilliant.
He has the type of “freak out” scenes which Oscar voters usually notice, and he kills them. He’s equally effective in his quieter moments, particularly at the end of the film. It’s a performance reminiscent of Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire” and Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” both of whom earned nominations.
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Unfortunately, Cooper has a few things standing in his way for a Best Actor bid: Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master,” John Hawkes in “The Sessions,” Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables,” Anthony Hopkins in “Hitchcock” and Denzel Washington in “Flight.” Can Cooper really crack the category in such a competitive year?
The forecast for David O. Russell’s film receiving all four acting nominations remains cloudy. But as Cooper’s character Pat Solitano might believe, there surely a way to find that silver lining in the quest for Oscar gold.