Thursday, February 26, 2015
Silver Linings Playbook (Yes, I'm late to the party)
Movies that deal with mental illness are touchy for me. I have Aspergers, have struggled with depression which was compounded by endometriosis. There have also been a lot of people close to me who have battled various mental health struggles of their own. Even a well-done movie about the topic can just be too depressing to watch. Since I'm working to reduce my stress this year, I've been staying away from upsetting movies.
Now "Silver Linings Playbook" could very well be upsetting to some viewers. It definitely would be traumatic if regular use of the f-bomb is a trigger for you, or domestic abuse, or bipolar disorder. This is an R-rated movie. I don't take R-rated movies lightly.
Still, last night Nathan and I decided to start it. I wasn't feeling up to watching a whole movie... but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. Nathan had to pretty much force me to take a bathroom break. I was riveted.
This isn't a movie about someone falling into depression, or even about dealing with it. It's about finding oneself again, about finding reasons to keep on going, about finding that silver lining. It's a messy movie because this stuff is messy, but it's also a beautiful movie.
Short synopsis - Bradly Cooper plays Pat, a man who looses control over his undiagnosed bipolar disorder after catching his wife in an affair and nearly beating her lover to death (very brief flashbacks, side nudity and violence in quick shots). The movie starts right as he is released from the psychiatric hospital. He comes home to stay with his parents, who are not perfect but doing their best to support him. Robert De Niro does a wonderful job of playing his father, an avid football fan who has been banned from the local stadium due to his own anger issues. Mutual friends connect Pat with Tiffany, a young widow played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has her own emotional issues. The friendship between these two is what makes the movie beautiful and it is about two lost people finding their way back to the surface together.
It's all set against a lower middle-class background. This isn't a celebrity dealing with the fallout of loosing his fanbase. This isn't an artist striving to find his next big creative achievement. This isn't a politican in their twilight years. This is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman, facing the heartbreak that strikes every day, fighting the mental issues that can strike any of us, regardless of background.
Mental illness is hard. There are a lot of components that go into fighting it - medication, exercise, diet, support systems, counseling, motivation, distraction - and the movie touches on most of them and for the most part in ways that ring true to me. I watched this movie and I saw myself and people I know - and I saw hope.
Indeed, the only criticism I really have about the film is that the ending is almost too easy. But it needs to be. There's only so much you can cover in two hours and the movie is stronger with the positive ending. It's a film you can rewatch again and remind yourself that it's worth it to keep going. It lifts you up in the end.
But at the same time we can't finish the film and imagine that it will be so easy for our loved ones still fighting the battle. Some will fight for months, some for years, and some will still have to watch their medication and their light therapy and their exercise requirements until the day they die. But their journey is easier if the people around them are willing to understand and support them.