At first glance, Silver Linings Playbook, nominated for the best picture Oscar, could be dismissed as just another quirky love story.
But director David O Russell reveals the film, which has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, has a very personal meaning to him.
"I have a son who's 18 and who has bipolar and OCD issues, among other things," says the film-maker who came to prominence with Three Kings (1999), I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010).
"I had been waiting and looking for a project that would make him feel more a part of the world and feature a character to say, ‘Look, there's people like you in the world and you're going to be OK' and when I was given this book, I knew I'd finally found it."
Based on the best-selling novel by Matthew Quick, the film stars Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano, a man who has lost everything - his house, his job and his wife. He's now living back home with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) after spending eight months in a mental-health institution.
He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an outspoken widow who offers to help him win back his wife if he'll do something important for her - partner her in a dance contest. As the deal plays out, their relationship begins to change.
"My son, by the way, is the young man who rings the doorbell in the film so he earned a role in the film where he could act with Mr De Niro, because it's also very personal for Mr De Niro as well," Russell says.
"Robert has family members in the same situation and we had spoken for many years about our children and what programmes they were attending, so when I brought the script to his home and we talked about making the character less of an angry guy and more like how we feel about our own children, he started to cry and that's when I knew it had meaning for him."
Oscar-nominated star Jennifer Lawrence, 22, admits she struggled to find her own connection to her character.
"I didn't really feel like we had a lot in common at all so I needed to shed all of my Jenniferisms and take myself out of it," she says.
"Tiffany is forceful and stubborn and at the same time insecure and thinks all these terrible things about herself, but she's also at complete peace with all of these things and I think that's why she can remain likeable and help Pat."
Cooper, who's achieved heart-throb status as People's Sexiest Man Alive after the success of The Hangover franchise, laughs when told he doesn't seem that good-looking in this film.
"Thanks - I think. Something special did happen with the transformation, which I largely attribute to David O Russell," the 38-year-old says.
"He really saw me as Pat and there were also some similarities with my own family growing up in Philadelphia, dipping their scones in their tea in the same kind of home, so it allowed that other world to come by osmosis."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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