Silver Linings Playbook Thoughtfully Tackles Mental Illness

Books and Movies

Silver Linings Playbook posterI must admit, I’m not a moviegoer. I’m the person who waits for a movie to come out on DVD. However, a couple of weeks ago my daughter was home from college and expressed an interest in seeing “Silver Linings Playbook.” With a solid cast, and “easy on the eyes” Bradley Cooper I agreed to go. I couldn’t have picked a better movie to break my movie-theater fast.

I had no idea what to expect from Silver Linings Playbook. I knew the cast was great but hadn’t heard enough about it to go in with any preconceived ideas. Sometimes I think that’s best. No expectations, more room for objective conclusions. However, if you or someone you know suffers from mental illness, this is probably one of the most beautifully done movies addressing the challenges that surround mental illness.

Pat, played brilliantly and gently by Bradley Cooper is a 30-something guy who lost his wife, his , and his home. After discovering his cheating wife, he finds himself in a mental institution for eight months. After his release, he’s back home living with his parents. Once there, he becomes obsessed about reuniting with his ex-wife.

In comes the cast of characters. Pat Sr., played by a perfectly cast Robert De Niro doesn’t disappoint. He portrays an obsessed Eagles fan and gambler with over-the-top superstitions. He has the ability to make us laugh and cry in the same scene. Jackie Weaver amazingly plays mother and family glue Delores—a woman caught between the love for her son and her husband.

And then there’s Tiffany, the love interest played by the multitalented Jennifer Lawrence.   Tiffany is recently widowed and dealing with problems of her own. She is introduced to Pat (Cooper) through an old buddy and Tiffany’s sister. Tiffany connects immediately with Pat not initially from a sexual perspective but more from a, “I get you, you get me, let’s be friends.” She is incredibly engaging and has a calculated aggressiveness about her that is disarming. Despite her obvious struggles, she skillfully combines a confidence and softness that pulls you in and quietly nudges you to becoming her biggest fan.

One of the more touching scenes in the movie is when Pat believes that he’s very close to seeing his ex-wife and his parents confront him. Pat falls in to a manic frenzy and ends up fighting with his parents, accidently hitting his mother. This scene illustrates the angst parents experience when they love their child yet are woefully empty on coping skills. This scene could have been an easy one to overplay, yet no one, including Cooper, ever took their character beyond what is believable and appropriate.

With mental illness, it’s a slippery slope. Done wrong it can be insulting and embarrassing. Handled right it clearly illustrates that mental illness isn’t about “crazy” it’s about discovering and embracing a new normal.

Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that raises awareness about mental illness with sensitivity and understanding that not only makes the movie entertaining but insightful as well. It’s a must see, and I will definitely watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

Silver Linings Playbook is nominated for Best Picture in the 85th Annual Academy Awards, airing this Sunday, February 24, 2013.

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