Silver Linings Playbook.
This year's …
What's it all about?
Based on the true story of the Abscam operation that took place in the 80s, American Hustle stars Russell regular Christian Bale as a con artist working for the FBI along with his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and lover (Amy Adams, reuniting with Russell and Bale after The Fighter). Bradley Cooper plays one of the agents, with Silver Linings alumnus Robert De Niro, as well as Jeremy Renner, Louis CK, Jack Huston and Michael Peña filling out the cast.
How did it happen?
Quickly, really quickly. This only stopped shooting in May (production was further delayed by the Boston manhunt). After the grim years between the release of I Heart Huckabees in 2004 and The Fighter in 2010, in which Russell only shot one never-released film, Nailed, he is evidently striking while the iron is hot.
Curiously, Eric Warren Singer's screenplay – No 8 on the 2010 blacklist, when it was still known as American Bullshit – had looked destined to be a directorial vehicle for Ben Affleck.
Nominations it wants
In an ideal world – everything. A repetition of Silver Linings Playbook's four actors, four nominations trick would be do-able, but most likely are best actor for Bale, supporting actress for Adams, plus a pick and mix of best director, best picture, best original screenplay, best editing and maybe best hair and makeup (for Cooper's bubble-fro alone).
What it might win
Is it too soon for Russell to return? Bear in mind Silver Linings Playbook didn't actually convert many of its Oscar nominations to gongs. Jennifer Lawrence's best actress win probably precludes her, but in an awards season that may come to be dominated by worthy political fodder, this might make for a feel-good change. Russell's return into the fold over the past few years remains unconsummated by a major directing gong, and the combo of a bridesmaid legacy and a top-drawer film could prove compelling.
Reasons to fall for it
That's one groovy trailer, all cash and sex and swagger. It looks faintly Ocean's 11 as directed by Scorsese – in a good way – with added metaphorical action about phoneys and front. Russell has recruited a premier-division cast just by cherry-picking the lead players from his previous two films. The loyalty demonstrated by these actors to the director should put pay to any lingering iffy publicity over Russell's previous form with his talent.
Reasons it might fail
The quick turnaround may give this a fresh-paint edge; it could also mean it feels a bit rushed. While Silver Linings Playbook took a familiar genre and gave it a good spin, this looks slightly more template. And while everybody loves a returning hero, absence also makes the heart grow fonder: just a year's gap may seem too hasty.
When can we see it
Silver Linings Playbook premiered at Toronto – a good strategy, it turned out (it was runner-up to Argo in the People's Choice award). No festival premiere has yet been announced – perhaps Russell might shake things up by donating to the New York film festival? – but it opens in the US on limited release on 13 December before going wide Christmas Day. Over in the UK, we need to wait just a day longer. And Boxing Day release seems sweet timing for this ever-punchy director.
In five words
Silver Linings Playbook goes gold.
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