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De Niro's tears in 'Silver Linings' are advertisement enough, OK?

February 12, 2013|By Glenn Whipp
  • Robert De Niro gets his hands dirty at a recent ceremony at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Robert De Niro gets his hands dirty at a recent ceremony at the Chinese Theatre… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Probably just like you, we at the Gold Standard enjoy the occasional Facebook foray to quietly unfriend anyone who sent us Farmville requests check up on the daily doings of friends and loved ones. Today, nestled among the cute kid pics and breaking status updates, there was a targeted ad from the Weinstein Co. directing me to watch what brought Robert De Niro to tears on Katie Couric's Show.

And, again, probably just like you, we had already seen this particular interview, which took place last week and has been written about extensively because it was, indeed, quite moving. "Silver Linings Playbook" writer-director David O. Russell, seated with De Niro and the film's star, Bradley Cooper, talks about his personal connection with the film's source material. Russell describes how the movie, with its bipolar protagonist, helped make his son, who has what Russell calls a "mood disorder," feel part of the world and how his son, now 18, once told him that "life was so hard he didn't know if he wanted to keep going."

All the while, De Niro, 69, sits quietly next to Cooper, listening, nodding his head. Then Couric asks him, five minutes into the seven-minute segment: "Did you feel a great responsibility, Bob, doing a film that David had so much personally invested in?"

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De Niro, a man far more comfortable expressing himself through his art than his own words, answers, "Oh, of course. Um ... I understand what he ..." Cough. Pause. "I don't like to get emotional," De Niro choked out, crying, "but I know exactly what he goes through."

It was a poignant, personal moment, widely reported, on one of many promotional appearances the normally press-shy actor has made the past few months.

But to have that occasion now turned into an advertisement for the film and, by extension, De Niro's campaign for this year's supporting actor Oscar, has been perceived by some as a bit much.

"No one says to Harvey [Weinstein], 'You've gone too far.' Or: 'That's over-the-top. You shouldn't do that,'" says a veteran awards-season consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of client relationships. "Harvey does nakedly shameless things, and this is one of them."

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Weinstein does have a history of running aggressive campaigns for Hollywood legends he considers overdue for academy recognition. He worked tirelessly for Martin Scorsese in an effort to secure the director his first Oscar for "Gangs of New York" and, later, "The Aviator." (Scorsese eventually won in 2007 for the Warner Bros. movie "The Departed.")

Last year, ads for the often-nominated Meryl Streep contained a quote informing voters that "it's been TWENTY-NINE YEARS SINCE MERYL STREEP WON AN OSCAR and she certainly deserves to win for her performance in 'The Iron Lady'!" 

The company is repeating that tactic this year with De Niro, noting the chasm of time separating the actor's last Oscar win ("Raging Bull," 1981) and the present. The message: Isn't it about time to reward this great actor again?

It's a sentiment we can, on one level, appreciate. De Niro gives a wonderful performance in "Silver Linings Playbook," at turns volatile and tender, and always deeply felt. Watching it, you immediately understand one thing: The tears he cries in the film are sufficient advertisement of its worthiness.

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Glenn Whipp

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