"The Silver Linings Playbook" solidified its status as an Oscar frontrunner by winning the people's choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.
After a rousing reception last Saturday, this new comedy drama from David O. Russell had people buzzing about its awards hopes. Bradley Cooper plays a recovering mental patient who meets a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who changes his life. Two-time Oscar champ Robert De Niro who plays his doting dad, is said to do his best work in years, while Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver is his mother.
Two years ago, Russell relaunched his once-promising career with "The Fighter," which netted him his first Oscar nod and won the supporting prizes for both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. That film's star, Mark Wahlberg, a long-time Russell fan, was to star in his adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel but took a pass, freeing up the role for Cooper.
"The Hangover" star proves he has the acting chops to handle this complicated character and is a strong contender in the Best Actor race. Lawrence, a 2009 Best Actress nominee ("Winter's Bone"), also headlined the box office juggernaut "The Hunger Games" this year, proving she has commercial as well as critical appeal.
In a measure of the strength of support for "Playbook," it edged out "Argo" as the people's choice. That film from director/star Ben Affleck has a strong Canadian connection as it details the heroic efforts of Canadian diplomats, working with the CIA, to extract six American diplomats from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.
Four of the 34 past winners of the TIFF audience award have gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars: "Chariots of Fire" (1981); "American Beauty" (1999); "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "The King's Speech" (2010). Like that last double champ, "Silver Linings" is from the renowned Oscar campaigners at the Weinstein Company.
Six other TIFF winners contended for the academy's top prize: "The Big Chill" (1983); "Places in the Heart" (1984); "Shine" (1996); "Life is Beautiful" (1998); "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) and "Precious" (2009).
In all, the 34 films that were tops with TIFF have racked up 105 Oscar nominations, with 39 wins. Besides those Best Picture victories, other notables who prevailed at the Oscars were: Sally Field (1984 Best Actress - "Places in the Heart"), Mercedes Ruehl (1991 Best Supporting Actress - "The Fisher King"); Geoffrey Rush (1996 Best Actor - "Shine"); Robert Begnini (1998 Best Actor - "Life is Beautiful"); Kevin Spacey (1999 Best Actor - "American Beauty"); and Colin Firth (2010 Best Actor - "The King's Speech").