'Playbook' Beats Out Heavy Hitters For Toronto Award

Sep 16, 2012
Originally published on September 17, 2012 9:50 am

Audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival handed the fest's top prize, the Peoples Choice Award, to the comedy Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver.

Playbook was directed by David O. Russell and features Cooper as a man recently released from a psychiatric ward, and Lawrence as the equally damaged young woman with whom he strikes up a relationship while trying to get his life back on track. It beat out quite a bit of high-profile competition, including a lush adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law; Argo, Ben Affleck's based-on-reality thriller about the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, about a religious cult leader modeled to some extent on Scientology's L. Ron Hubbard.

NPR's Bob Mondello speaks with Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about the week he spent at the festival, seeing 27 films, and attending gala events, including the world premiere of Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, Quartet, a warm comedy starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins, about aging opera singers in a retirement home for musicians.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. For the last 10 days or so, if you wanted to find a big Hollywood star, the place to be was Canada. But, Bob, I thought all Hollywood stars are actually from Canada.


BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: No. I think it's just Mike Myers.

RAZ: I got you. OK. That's our film critic Bob Mondello. He's just back from the Toronto Film Festival where he hung out with Tom Hanks, Keira Knightley, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, many others, right, Bob?

MONDELLO: Quite a few artists, yeah.

RAZ: In fact, just a few hours ago, the festival - at the festival, the top prize, the People's Choice Award, went to the comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" that stars Bradley Cooper as a man recently released from a psychiatric institute and Jennifer Lawrence as an equally damaged young woman.


JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) What meds are you on?

BRADLEY COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) I used to be on lithium and Seroquel.

LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) I was on Xanax.

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) Did you ever take Klonopin?

LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) Klonopin, yeah.

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) Like, is it what?

LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) I'm tired. I want to go. Are you going to walk me home or what?

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) You have poor social skills. You have a problem.

LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) I have a problem?

COOPER: (as Pat Solitano) Mm-hmm.

LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.

RAZ: Wow. That's an interesting role for Jennifer Lawrence. Bob, what did you make of this film?

MONDELLO: Oh, it's wonderful. And you can totally see why it would be the audience favorite. You come out of it, and you just think: Oh, well, that's going to be an Oscar nominee. It's just wonderful. It's a terrific script. It's very, very funny. It's actually kind of serious too. It has a dance competition in it. I mean, it's got everything. It'll be a huge hit.

RAZ: Talk about this award, the People's Choice Award, at the Toronto Film Festival. How big of a deal is it?

MONDELLO: Well, it can be a big deal. A few years ago, there was a little picture that came to Toronto that was scheduled to go direct to video. And it won the award, and after that, they changed their plans. It was called "Slumdog Millionaire."

RAZ: Oh, I think I've heard of that one. Yes. Yeah.


MONDELLO: You know, made $370 million. It did a lot of business. On the other hand, last year, "The Artist" went there and did not win...

RAZ: It didn't.

MONDELLO: ...the big award. Instead, a little Lebanese/French picture called "Where Do We Go Now?" won. And nobody's heard of that since, really, so.

RAZ: You never know.

MONDELLO: It can kneel out, it might not. But this one, I think, is going to be a popular choice.

RAZ: OK. Bob, I am looking at the schedule, because you've come back with a schedule to make me very jealous. You saw 300 films there. You apparently saw almost 10 percent of those films, about 27 (unintelligible).

MONDELLO: I saw 27 pictures.

RAZ: So what stood out for you?

MONDELLO: A lot, actually. I mean, listen, "Argo," directed by Ben Affleck, was a very big deal.

RAZ: That's the CIA rescue of...

MONDELLO: Hostages.

RAZ: ...American hostages in Iran. Yeah.

MONDELLO: Yeah. And is terrific. And it actually came out on the day that Canada closed its embassy in Tehran...

RAZ: Oh.

MONDELLO: ...so that there was all this political, you know, stuff flying around it, and it made it seem even more strong as a picture. It's a wonderfully suspenseful movie. And then I saw one that I just went absolutely nuts over. And it's a little picture. I went there, I had no expectations that this was going to be any good: Dustin Hoffman's first directing job, the first time he's ever directed something. It's a story about aging opera singers in a retirement home for musicians.

RAZ: And it's called?

MONDELLO: It's called "Quartet."


PAULINE COLLINS: (as Cissy) Look at Jean in all her glory.

BILLY CONNOLLY: (as Wilf) Oh, Jean. You haven't changed a jot.

COLLINS: (as Cissy) Didn't I tell you? Didn't I say she still looks like a young girl?

MONDELLO: Who they're talking about is Maggie Smith who has just arrived. She's sort of a diva.

RAZ: And who are the actors we just heard?

MONDELLO: You heard Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins...


MONDELLO: ...as two aging and slightly tired opera performers. But they are going to do a revival of the big quartet from "Rigoletto" that made them stars when they were young. And it's enormous fun to watch these guys. I mean, you know that none of them are singers. You can't actually imagine Maggie Smith, you know, singing an aria.

RAZ: No, I can't.

MONDELLO: But they are surrounded, interestingly enough, with actual aging singers. And so he got opera stars from the '40s and '50s who were just sort of hanging around in Britain who had not been on a stage or anywhere for decades.

RAZ: Wow.

MONDELLO: And they're all the minor roles. And you're watching this thing, and it was - at the gala, it was just amazing at the end because the credits came up, and, of course, Maggie Smith is actually in the audience at the gala, so we're all applauding her, right?

RAZ: Yeah.

MONDELLO: And then they put up the name of one of the background people who was an opera singer, and the opera nuts in the crowd started gasping because they were really excited about it. And they were applauding her. As the names kept coming up, the audience kept applauding. It was like a real opera ending where everybody just applauds for six minutes.

RAZ: It's amazing that Dustin Hoffman, this is his debut as a director.


RAZ: He's been in Hollywood for so long. He is not in this film, right?

MONDELLO: No, he's not in it. He is 75. He was actually asked at the gala why it had taken him so long...

RAZ: Yeah.

MONDELLO: ...to become a director. And his response was: I'm still working that out with my therapist...


MONDELLO: ...which was great.

RAZ: All right. The "Quartet." That's a good one to go see.

MONDELLO: It's really something.

RAZ: I look forward to it. That's NPR film critic Bob Mondello. He's just back from the Toronto International Film Festival. Bob, thank you so much.

MONDELLO: It's always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.