Hot on the heels of the news that Harvey Weinstein —avec daughter Lily — co-opted First Lady Michelle Obama to announce the Best Picture at last night’s Oscars, comes the reveal that Weinstein hired a former “Obama for America” 2012 campaign manager to help steer Silver Linings Playbook’s (SLP) to Oscar glory.
All is fair in love and movies? Yes, if the movie happens to be yours.
According to Vulture, while the augurs pointed to an Argo victory at the Oscars, a resolute Weinstein reached out to ex-Presidential aide, politico Stephanie Cutter to consult on a campaign of a different kind.
Although no-one knows if any currency changed hands, these are some of the — public — ways in which Cutter’s PR expertise manifested.
On February 14, she posted a endorsement tweet for SLP, writing:
“We’re a little over a week away from Oscars. Check out the making of Silver Linings Playbook. Love this movie” [then a link to a trailer for the film.]
This was followed up in Oscar week on February 21 with a tweet that read:
“Oscar week — who are you [rooting] for?” [along with a link to a SLP article.]
Cutter also took part in an online Q and A hosted by ABC, during which she was asked to name her favorite film.
“We’re in Oscar season so I’m gonna talk about my favorite film this year,” was her reply. “My favorite is actually Silver Linings Playbook. That it’s so real and identifiable to everybody in life.”
But Cutter’s real Midas touch was her narrative emphasis on the Bipolar Disorder dimension to SLP, and its wider, social resonance.
Specifically, Vulture claims its sources say Cutter was hired to promote SLP not just as a quality movie but as a:
“… culturally relevant and especially politically significant film that was shaping the national conversation about mental health triggered in part by the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.”
That’s quite a brief. But Vulture does a good job detailing various social dates in SLP’s pre-Oscar diary that back up its claims.
One such occasion was a press conference at the Center for American Progress. Attended by SLP actor Bradley Cooper, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Barbara Van Dahlen, President and founder and President of “Give an Hour,” a nonprofit group providing free mental health services to US military and their families, among others. The topic? SLP and the mental health issues it highlighted.
Stepping up the heavyweight rounds less than a week later, Cooper and SLP director David O. Russell (whose son is Bipolar), met with Vice-President Joe Biden in his office to talk about mental health reform.
Subsequent media requests asking about Cutter’s involvement were met with a rather formal sounding statement from a Weinstein spokeswoman that read:
“When it was clear that Silver Linings Playbook‘s treatment of mental health issues was becoming a topic in the advocacy community and political circles, Harvey Weinstein sought the advice of a number of friends with experience in those areas, including former Senator Chris Dodd, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, and Stephanie Cutter, who he knows from his work as a supporter of President Obama.”
But, of course, there has never been any secrecy about Weinstein’s support for the Obama campaign. Last August he raised $2.3 million in a fundraiser hosted at his Westport, Connecticut home, The Hollywood Reporter notes.
And after all, isn’t all this simply how the “business” part of the movie business works? In service to Lincoln’s awards run, director Steven Spielberg enticed former President Bill Clinton to the Golden Globes.
Likewise, CNN’s description of the hush hush White House meeting between Academy Award producers, Weinstein, and the First Lady and her staff to work out the logistics of Michelle’s video link appearance, could be interpreted as an acknowledgment of the film industry’s importance to the US economy.
And let’s not forget that the winning film Obama co-announced was, in fact, Argo.
It is to be hoped that news of Weinstein’s efforts won’t morph into some kind of backlash against Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar win for Best Actress. It was well deserved and on merit, and no-one can take that away from her.
Not even Cutter’s possible cut.