This weekend I went to go see the movie Silver Linings Playbook with my mom. If I’m going to be completely honest, I have to start off by telling you that I was kind of in need of some sort of drama or romance story (I have my moments), and I thought that this was going to be that kind of movie. While Silver Linings Playbook is technically a romance film, it went beyond the usual formula of today’s generic chick flicks and romantic comedies.
You know what I’m talking about, right? Those movies where within the first 20 minutes of the film the main characters have probably already slept together and are beginning to fall madly in love. While those kind of movies are one of my guilty pleasures, I have always struggled with the way love is portrayed in them. Love is not something that happens in an instant. I know some people swear that it can, but something in my gut tells me otherwise, and this movie does a phenomenal job in portraying love as something that develops over time and trial.
Now before I get any deeper into this review, I should probably give you a general idea of what the film is actually about. I don’t want to give away any big spoilers, so I’ll do my best to keep this part brief. The main male character Pat Salitano, played by Bradley Cooper, has recently been discharged from a mental institution after being court-ordered to stay there after beating the tar out of the guy he found sleeping with his wife. As part of the conditions of him being released from the hospital, Pat must live with his parents and continue seeing a therapist. At this point Pat is focusing on living a healthy lifestyle in order to win back his wife. In this process of getting his life back together Pat meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, a girl who has plenty of problems all her own.
This synopsis may make you think you can figure out exactly what the plot of this film will consist of: two characters who are hurting and in need of someone to understand them fall in love by the third scene and the rest is history. That’s kind of what I was expecting as well, but I was pleased to discover that this movie went much further than my mediocre expectations. Instead of the usual plot progression of fast love, someone tells a lie, they break up, then get back together again just before the credits roll, we see a very real presentation of two people struggling to deal with mental illness and how they fit into the world around them.
My brother has bipolar disorder, the disorder Pat is diagnosed with in the movie, and the way this movie presents the ups and downs of this mental illness is so distinctly accurate that it sent chills down my spine. I saw my brother in this movie. One scene in particular showed Pat as he grew increasingly frustrated because he couldn’t find a video tape. A video tape. His frustration grew into anger. He began throwing things around as he started to descend into a blind range. When his mother laid her hand on him to try to help him calm down, he swung his arm back reflexively and struck her with his elbow. Immediately he realized what he had done. He apologized over and over. He knew what he did was terrible, and the pain in his eyes pierced through the screen as I saw the same look my brother has when he has done something he regrets. That look of self-hate and guilt. A look that I just want to take away.
This progression of emotions and actions occurred in about five minutes. That may seem a bit unrealistic, but I can tell you that that is how it happens with my brother almost every time he loses it. I love my brother and he is a wonderful kid., but it would be dishonest for me to say that he has never gone too far. He doesn’t rage very often, but when he does it escalates quickly and usually comes back down just as quick. That is the reality of people who suffer with bipolar and the people around them who are often subject to the screaming and the destructive behavior, and Silver Linings Playbook presents this reality in a way that doesn’t tiptoe around such a touchy subject.
The world looks at people like Pat and my brother and assume they are monsters. They aren’t. And that is something about Silver Linings Playbook that I absolutely love: it captures the humanity in the midst of something that is not easy to understand. And the best part about this is that it doesn’t sugar-coat anything. It is brutally honest. It displays a truth that is not easy to digest, but without the grit and the struggle you cannot appreciate the triumphs. It forces you to see the silver linings.
Silver Linings Playbook is much more than just another love story. It’s a life story. It’s movies like this one that make you think and evaluate the way you look at the world around you by going down a road that is not commonly explored. It talks about something that our society so often tries to push to the side rather than attempting to understand it. I love this movie because through the use of fictional characters it speaks a message of truth and reality, and that’s what makes it so great. I once heard someone say that writing fiction does not mean telling lies, but that through the art of story-telling a writer should strive to present the truth. This movie definitely does that, and it’s most definitely worth watching.
Comment Question: What makes a good movie and why? Let me know in the comment section below!