This is one of the good ones. Equal parts date night movie, art film, chick flick and football fan fest, Silver Linings Playbook is more than a film about characters struggling with mental illness recovery, it is a film about all of us. Adapted from the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper) as a man with bipolar illness who returns to his parents’ home after many months in a mental hospital, following a meltdown after his marriage breaks up, determined to reconcile with his wife. As if things could not be more challenging, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman with depression and major challenges of her own. They develop a quirky relationship through which they find themselves, through sad and funny twists and turns.
The film, produced by The Weinstein Company, was directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter, Flirting With Disaster), and with an tremendous cast including Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) and Robert DeNiro, one would expect excellent acting. And yes, the acting was brilliant—but so was the story, which the actors revealed with vivid, realistic creativity.
Therapy sessions, a house, a family, football, routines, dancing, cooking, mental illness, mothering, marriage, neighbors and community, fathers and sons, romance—with no filters, the film slowly develops through the laissez-faire, “natural” directing style of Russell. Watching the film, one is anxious yet hopeful; a voyeur perhaps, watching the story through the eyes of each character. Medication, therapy, strategies and goals blend with dinner, relationships, community and daily family life.
Billed as a comedy, this film is actually more of a drama with comedic elements. At times laugh-out-loud funny, but at others tearful in its authenticity, we feel the pain and struggles of Pat and Tiffany as well as their families and friends. But like them, we are led to a simple understanding. The film reveals that we all have our issues—clearly some have it worse, but deep down, we are all the same. We understand how obsessive the quest for love can be and how vital community and support are to our own journey to happiness. Life gives us what we need, it seems, if we stop and consider, if we are willing to work for it. As we experience Pat and Tiffany’s recovery, it is the important support they get from their family and friends that reveals to us the fact that we all walk a vulnerable tightrope.
Delivering a dramedy about mental illness can be a challenge. Handled in the wrong way, it could trivialize or sensationalize. But Silver Linings Playbook manages to entertain while filling us with joy at the revelation of just how alike we really are.
Go see Silver Linings Playbook—for the gift of great directing, the joy of excellent acting and the comfort of our connectedness.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
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