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Silver Linings Playbook: Reading the Signs With Jacki Weaver

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The winner of audience awards in Toronto, the Hamptons, and other film festivals, David O. Russell's new movie, Silver Linings Playbook is not only a crowd pleaser, it has the gravitas to make it to the top awards. This movie is to Philadelphia, The Eagles and football what Lowell, Massachusetts and the ring was to The Fighter: all you need is (heart).

First, there's the winning chemistry of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, a mismatched couple that match up crazy for crazy, in the film's lingo, to a happy ending, dancing into the Pennsylvania sunset. Then, there's the family. At the outset, Cooper's character, Pat, is released from a mental facility where he's spent time after beating up his wife's lover. With anger management issues triggered by his wedding song, "Ma Cherie Amour," he's now in the care of his parents, Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver.

Shifting into the wise if funny father role he's honed through the Focker flicks, DeNiro delivers a life-affirming lecture about love to his son. And, Weaver who kills with one roll of an eyeball, conveying madness as in her Oscar-nominated mom-from-hell role in Animal Kingdom, to this sweetly conniving matriarch who has a flair in the kitchen for "crabby cakes and homemade," prepares treats to nourish this neurotically loveable ensemble suffering from disorders, bipolar to OCD.

The loving feeling flooded the Plaza Athenee last Sunday night; guests for a special screening crowded around Jennifer Lawrence, tall in six-inch heels, an elegant poodle (her words) in a tuxedo pant suit with a big bow at neck, she was en route to Atlanta to the set of the next Hunger Games. At Monday's premiere at Forty-four at the Royalton, Bradley Cooper huddled with David O. Russell. Cooper is filming The Hangover III, and slated for this director's next movie.

I caught up with Australian actress Jacki Weaver, asking how she was cast as a Philadelphia-Italian housewife.

People think I'm an overnight success. This is my 50th year anniversary as an actress. My first role was Cinderella in Sydney in 1962. Since you last saw me for Animal Kingdom, my life has changed. When I was co-starring in Uncle Vanya with Cate Blanchett in DC, David wanted to talk to me. I did improv on Skype in character. He likes actors to be flexible, out of their comfort zone. He wanted to know that I could sound Philadelphian. He's high-octane, wants to work in an intense way.

There's a tender moment when you kiss Bradley Cooper on the forehead. Was that scripted?

I don't remember. It is collaborative working with David. To know Bradley Cooper is to love him. I had no problem caring for him.

What was it like being onscreen wife to DeNiro?

He is a kind, generous gentleman. If America had knighthood, he'd be Lord DeNiro.

Are you at all surprised at the glowing reviews for this film?

I wondered how the film would go in Europe and Australia; it seems so distinctly American. But the film is about a family facing what millions of families from all over face. So it should be popular all over. When I saw it in Toronto, I realized it was more universal than I thought.

What are crabby cakes and homemades?

Those foods are distinctly Philadelphian. I do not know how to make them. I did have to learn to make "bresaola," an Italian meat roll, because I show Danny (Chris Tucker) how in the kitchen. I made about 50 of them.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.