Movie review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Everyone is a little messed up. We first meet Pat in the mental institution just before his mother signs papers to get him out. Papers taking responsibility for removing him before others think he should be released. Eight and a half months into a stint there.

We see and hear the refreshing, dizzyingly frank, and socially inappropriate words and actions that emanate from Pat. From throwing a Hemingway book out of the second story window at his parents’ house after he finishes reading the book in the middle of the night. To rants that bring the police to the house when he cannot find the video of his wedding.

Without looking for companionship, he becomes friends with a woman going through a similar honest-speaking period of her life…as she explains, they with mental issues speak honestly where the rest of us poor souls do not.

Those with mental illnesses are treated differently, talked to differently, talked about differently. They struggle through life without coping strategies or with unhelpful ones that repeatedly land them in unhealthy situations…in violent outbursts or sexually harmful relations with others.

But the thing is, the issues they struggle with, their mental illnesses are explicit. Others struggle through issues, with good, bad, or no coping strategies, but they aren’t considered to have mental issues. They are considered “normal”. They function well enough in society. Unlike Pat and Tiffany who are singled out, laughed at.

Who are the “normal” ones? Pat’s wife who cheated on him. The mother who bakes crabbies and homemades for the Eagles football games. The anger and OCD behavior of Pat’s father. The friend who struggles in an unhealthy marriage that leaves him drowning. His wife who dominates relations with others. The brother who brags about the goodness in his life—a life that one gets the impression isn’t all that great. The same brother who gets involved in a fight at an Eagles game while Pat initially looks on, trying to control the anger problem he has (but his brother doesn’t have. Yeah, right.).

On the whole the acting was good. It is always a pleasure to see De Niro act and this serious role was a nice change for him from other recent films. Silver Linings Playbook is sort of a boy-meets-girl movie that centers on the serious topic of mental illness, of people and families coming to grips with it. We see the fun side though…the inappropriate honesty, the refreshing cantor…we hear about the negativities but do not necessarily see them or see them completely fleshed out. This is not a movie to bring you down but to show you human foibles that we all possess to various degrees. Whether depression, or bipolar, or OCD. And how we feed off of and reinforce each other. For example, in one scene Pat’s friend from the mental institution is sitting on the couch in the Pat’s parents’ house, holding two TV remotes in a way that Pat’s father would want…because that action, that positioning would help the Eagles win. Nothing like reinforcing OCD behavior.

Everyone, one realizes, is a little messed up. Some more than others. Some have more challenges than others. Some have illnesses that are more socially acceptable than others (superstitions vs. bipolar disorder). But in the end, everyone is a little messed up. The key is to find a strategy to survive, such as staying positive so, in the words of Pat, you have a shot at the silver lining.

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