TORONTO — Silver Linings Playbook has won a key boost in the race for Oscar glory.
The feel-good romantic dramedy starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro was named audience favourite at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It’s a coveted prize often seen as an indicator of awards show success and festival director Piers Handling predicted a celebrated run for the quirky feature, opening Nov. 21.
“It’s a deeply emotional story,” said Handling, noting it’s about two flawed people — played by Cooper and Lawrence — who come together to overcome their obstacles.
“De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence for sure will be up for Oscar nominations, as well as Bradley Cooper. For this film, I think they’ll get a number of nominations.”
Toronto audiences have proven to be savvy predictors of would-be smashes: past picks The King’s Speech, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire and Slumdog Millionaire all went on to multiple Academy Award nominations and wins.
The best Canadian feature prize went to the gender-bending love story Laurence Anyways, directed by Xavier Dolan.
The 23-year-old Quebec phenom fought back tears as he accepted the $30,000 award, admitting that he had feared the film would “be forgotten.”
Instead, Dolan now follows in some big footsteps — the last two Quebec films that won TIFF’s top Canadian feature prize ended up being Canada’s submission to the Oscars.
Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazha was last year’s pick, while Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies” got the nod in 2010. Both ended up among the final nominees for the best foreign-language film category.
Dolan said he didn’t want to dream about such prospects for Laurence Anyways, a stylish portrait of a transsexual man and his decade-long romance with a woman.
“It would be an audacious choice,” said Dolan, whose film opens in Toronto on Friday before heading to other English Canadian cities.
“Usually we have war movies, we have sociologically implicated movies…. I don’t want to dream about it. I don’t know what Canada’s choice will be. I would love for them to pick my movie but that’s all I have to say. There are serious contenders out there — ’War Witch’ and a lot of films could be chosen for Canada.”
The best debut Canadian feature prize went to two films: Brandon Cronenberg’s stylized feature Antiviral, and Jason Buxton’s dark drama Blackbird. Both directors also each won cash prizes of $15,000.
The low-key Cronenberg — son of Canadian film legend David Cronenberg — seemed at a loss for words when he took the stage to offer his thanks.
“I didn’t have a speech prepared, which was a huge mistake I realized,” Cronenberg said afterwards.
“This is a great boost for the film. We had a really wonderful welcoming reaction from the Toronto audiences and so it’s extremely exciting.”
Later, he joked that he had already signed his cheque over to producer Niv Fichman.
“This is like, the first instalment of a lot of money,” Cronenberg quipped.
The awards were handed out Sunday an annual brunch gala marking the end of the 11-day movie marathon, which included new films from Ben Affleck, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Thomas Anderson and Terrence Malick.
Affleck’s political thriller Argo, opening Oct. 12, was a close second in the people’s choice vote, said Handling.
He predicted multiple Oscar nods for Affleck, who both stars and directs the film about a secret CIA mission to extract six U.S. citizens from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.
“Ben Affleck hit a home run, I think, with this film — the Toronto audiences gave it standing ovations, they embraced it, they loved it, he’s fantastic in the film, he gives a wonderful, wonderful performance, so I think there’ll be all kinds of nominations for him,” said Handling.
Others he predicted on the way to acting kudos include Julianne Moore in What Maisie Knew, Elle Fanning in “Ginger and Rosa,” Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master.
“It’s a strong year in terms of actors. It always is and I think it’ll be very interesting to see what the Academy, and I guess what the Golden Globes also, nominates.”