Oscar Guide: EW's Prize Fighter on the four-way battle for Best Picture

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Silver Linings Playbook opens in limited release today (expanding wider on Nov. 21), and also has rave reviews on its side, but it remains unclear whether the movie will be embraced by average moviegoers. This story of bi-polar Bradley Cooper’s offbeat romance with an equally unstable Jennifer Lawrence is smaller in scale than Argo and many of its rivals, but the Oscars love to make room for intimate films among the epics.

Those who have seen Silver Linings Playbook love it with the same frantic energy the movie emanates, and that’s a good thing. Radical passion endures. I know a number of voters who are slam-their-hands-on-the-tabletop certain that this movie will not only be nominated, but win. First, it absolutely must connect with moviegoers at the box office, and that is still a question mark.

Its limited debut this weekend will undoubtedly be strong, based on the word-of-mouth already out there, but it will need a solid nationwide expansion to catch the attention of Academy voters who aren’t already sold. If it tanks, or struggles, that fuels the naysayers, and there are just too many other crowdpleasers with equal acclaim that could roll over it.

That’s why I rank it at No. 3 below Spielberg’s historical drama Lincoln. These super-sized rivals could divide voters and cancel each other out, clearing a path for Silver Linings, but it will need all the box office love it can get to help it along with popular support.

NEXT PAGE: How Lincoln can win the fight

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