“Silver Linings Playbook”, or “LIFE RUINERS” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on February 15, 2013

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Before I really knew what was happening, I was being swept along on the tidal wave of publicity for Silver Linings. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo reviewed it months ago, and it came out quite recently in Australian cinemas. It’s quite poignant really, given the film’s subject matter concerns mental illness and how it can consume you without you even noticing.

So I’ll set the scene. Patrizio Solitano Jr (no I’m serious, that is his name) is living in a mental health facility because of his bipolar disorder. We meet him on the day he is allowed to leave, and his mum (Jacki Weaver) picks him up with visible trepidation. Upon returning home, it is clear that things are not going all that well for young Pat (Bradley Cooper is astonishing in this role), and his parents don’t seem to be coping with his manic behaviour; particularly his father (Robert De Niro), who has OCD. Pat is invited to a dinner and there he meets the enigmatic Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow and former sex addict. Pat wishes to communicate with his ex wife, Nikki, and is determined to use Tiffany as the facilitator of this plan. Tiffany agrees, as long as Pat agrees to perform in a dance competition with her in a few weeks time.

The cheeky smiling poster.

The cheeky smiling poster.

The rest of the film focuses on two people attempting to cope with their mental health through each other’s company, and with dance. It sounds insane (pun unintended), but it actually works on screen.

I thoroughly enjoyed Cooper and Lawrence’s performances; they were both absolutely brilliant. De Niro and Weaver are also wonderful (Mr. D on classic scene-stealing form), and a seriously honourable mention must go to Chris Tucker as Danny who shines as a fellow patient at the facility who initially attempts to leave with Pat and his mother.

In the midst of the joy of dance.

The film really is, at its heart, about mental illness. And for that, I want to jump up and down shrieking with glee. Because the more mainstream and “acceptable” mental illness becomes, the fewer barriers and stigma we will have. I’ve documented my own forays into the murky world of mental illness here, so I speak from experience. In mental health facilities, there is an awful lot of shuffling about in nightgowns, pills dispensed in those little paper cups and talk of what it will be like outside. I empathise with Pat in his struggle for acceptance in a society that does not understand that you are not always responsible for your actions and that your mind is being manipulated by forces beyond your control (hello neurotransmitters, what’s up?).

So I would highly recommend Silver Linings, because it doesn’t come across like one of those films that seems to be begging for Academy attention. There’s a subtlety to the film, along with a nuanced understanding of what people with bipolar must be going through. It has garnered my respect for its sensitive depiction of mental illness and the struggle to accept one’s own reality. Plus who can resist Bradley Cooper, amirite ladies?

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident movie reviewer. You can catch her column, Here. Hare. Here., every Friday.

What do you think of Silver Linings Playbook? Are you a lover or a hater? Sound off in the comments.

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