Thursday, March 13, 2014

Long Overdue Review: "Silver Linings Playbook"

I actually saw "Silver Linings Playbook" last year and never got around to writing about it.  I think it's a very important movie.  I will try to write about it without spoiling anything in case you haven't seen it.

One of the reasons I so identify with the movie, especially the character of Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for her performance, is that the characters are so high-functioning, yet average.  Normally when you see mental illness in movies it's because it manifests in some spectacular way by people who are not living "normal lives."  I think about characters like Hannibal Lector, the infamous cannibal in "Silence of the Lambs" as your stereotypical "bad crazy person." And even in two of my favorite movies about mental illness, "A Beautiful Mind" and "Fight Club" the characters, who are both schizophrenic, are "larger than life" with a fine line drawn between brilliance and madness.

In SLP, the main characters, Pat and Tiffany (who are both bipolar in my estimation, although Tiffany's illness is never identified) are two things you don't normally see in films about mental illness: they are high-functioning and just just sort of everyday people.  True, their illnesses impact their lives in negative ways - they both act out in inappropriate ways at times, but they are aware that they are "out of bounds" and continue to struggle with everyday life.

In one of my favorite scenes (and I hope this doesn't spoil anything) Pat and Tiffany are talking about their experiences with different medications and their side-effects and it sounded like a conversation I've had so many times.  I mean, that's what you do when you're being treated for mental illness when you meet other people who are mentally ill - you talk about your treatment and what you're going through.  And I knew the names of the meds and the symptoms they discussed and thought, "That's right!"

In terms of being an inspiration, I found SLP's down-to-earth approach to be so refreshing.  And, I think, the actual "spectacularness" of the story is the way author Matthew Quick and writer / director David O. Russell actually pull together the whole romantic comedy around the characters without being stereotypical, but by keeping it real.   I would recommend this movie to anyone, especially if you want to see how while love can be "crazy" it can also help us find ourselves.

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