As a rule, I avoid trendy movies about trending topics that fit into someone’s agenda of what we should be talking about right now. Mental health could be one of those topics. It’s taboo enough to be “hip” for a little while, until the next thing comes along.
I think that Silver Linings Playbook edges close to the line where the movie is more about the statement and telling us what we should think than about just showing us something and leaving us alone to find our own way. But it never crosses that line, and it handles the subject of mental illness in a fresh, fairly realistic, and clever way.
The movie’s about Pat, a newly diagnosed bipolar man who’s trying to get his life (and his wife) back after spending eight months in a mental hospital. The court ordered him into treatment after he nearly killed the fellow with whom his wife was having an affair. Bradley Cooper does a nice job as Pat. He’s a great actor with his eyes, (and all that other acting stuff too, but his eyes always add more to the character for me.)
It’s not just about him though. There’s his family played brilliantly by Robert Deniro as his Philadelphia Eagle’s obsessed dad, and his enabling mother played by Jacki Weaver. Both do a great job. Deniro even cried. (And so did I.)
Katniss Everdeen showed up as the emotionally distressed widow, Tiffany. (And by Katniss, I mean Jennifer Lawrence. It took me about two minutes to forget about Katniss completely.) Lawrence portrays this broken character with finesse and insight, and highlighted for me why everyone’s been raving about her. (I never saw Winter’s Bone, so all I had to go on was the Hunger Games.) She won the Golden Globe for her job in the movie, and I think she ought to be a strong contender for the Oscar.
I loved this movie. It opens up the world of mental illness and portrays it as just that, an illness to be treated, just like other illnesses. It’s treatable, not insurmountable, and it takes work, medicine, and support. And it’s not just the person with the diagnosis who has something to work on. I thought writer and director, David O. Russell did a wonderful job of portraying all kinds of dysfunction in the two families of the main characters.
The “silver linings” concept threaded throughout the movie struck a chord with me as well. As a Christian, I’m very familiar with finding good in bad situations. So it was refreshing to see this idea highlighted in a fairly positive manner. Overall, I give Silver Linings Playbook a 7.8. It’s smart, well done, and insightful.