Oh, this is a good one. This is that movie that comes along every once in a while as a reminder that, when it comes to portraying mental illness, there are people who actually do know what they’re talking about. There are, in fact, writers and actors out there who care about this stuff, who are willing to commit to getting it right and create a meaningful piece of art.
I’m not sure that I was prepared for how real this movie was. It’s unexpectedly dark. It doesn’t go down easily; it’s tense and uncomfortable. As uplifting as Silver Linings is, it’s also exhausting, and stressful. What David O. Russel presents in this film is an emotionally challenging viewing experience.
The movie’s portrayal of bipolar disorder and depression isn’t perfect, but this is, after all, just a movie, so we have to expect that. Certain elements were added or given more weight for the purpose of facilitating storytelling (Cooper’s character Pat Solitano being so triggered by hearing a song, for example, may be bending the reality of bipolar disorder a little at times), but a literate audience will understand.
Some of the dialogue might be just a little too transparent in its educational intent: a little too much talk about medication here, a little too much unrealistic dialogue about stigma. Don’t get me wrong; from a mental health advocacy, I was thrilled to find these little details in there. From a film viewer’s perspective, there’s something a little off in the writing.
I don’t think that anyone can walk away from this film without a better understanding of what it means to live with mental illness. The characters here aren’t “Other.” They’re us, and we know them and understand them. They show us shades of ourselves that exist in everyone, and to see them is a terrifying but necessary experience.
I’ll have more on Playbook as the Academy Awards ceremony on February 24 approaches. ∞