Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Dir. David O. Russell
Welcome to looney bin!
To best define the characters of the story is to quote Jack Kerouac:
the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. (On the Road)
It came to me immediately after the movie ended. Tiffany and Pat are the mad ones. They are not afraid of the word crazy. They throw it back and forth like it was a tennis match. They use it more often than words like ‘mentally unstable’ or ‘mental disorder.’ Yet, the movie does not judge them. It also does not want to study their mental disorders. In a positive and hopeful way, it shows the road to recovery for the ones afflicted and their families.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) is blinded by what he believes is love for his wife. Clearly, it did not stop her from cheating on him. He catches her red-handed with the lover who he almost beats to death. On the flip side, he does not see that his bouts of aggression, physical violence, and mood swings might actually be a problem (or rather the problem) and a factor in her being unfaithful. He devotes all his energy, and he seems to have loads of it, to getting his wife back. Against all odds, against the restricting orders, and her not being aware of Pat’s intentions, he struggles to do so. What he is truly doing is getting her out of his system. She symbolizes his weak, sick side. Until he gets rid of her, out of sight out of mind, as they say, he cannot and does not move on.
Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is also driven by emotions she cannot control. The trauma of her late husband’s death, which she clearly blames herself for, still hovers over her. She is notorious for sleeping with many partners and talking openly about it. But, just as Pat’s aggressions and mood swings, it is only a defense mechanism against not being able to handle things. She practically throws herself at Pat forcing him to become her dance partner. In this innocent way they both learn how to commit (and avoid being committed), trust, and love once again. Among all the judgment from the community — we can constantly see the neighbors’ faces in windows snooping on them like ghosts from the past — they seem to be the most honest and sane people.
If the story treats the mental illnesses, can we all identify with the characters? I say, yes. This is, by all means, a universal story that proves there is no difference between the needs and desires of all people no matter what illness they are or aren’t diagnosed with. After all, we all want to be accepted and loved. We all look for peace and stability. We all wish for a family’s support and understanding. And we all tend to be judgmental from time to time, which occasionally may go back to us like a boomerang.
Long days, pleasant nights,