I should probably preface this post by saying that I had about 5 cups of coffee earlier from a rather large mug, so on top of my already overactive brain function, I’m left with an overactive brain function on overdrive, which makes the fact that I am unable to sleep not surprising in the slightest. Thus, I find myself here, in the wee hours of a bleak sleepless morning, pondering the universe and it’s many complexities.
First of all, I will get this pleasantry out of the way right from the start: This is not merely a film review, even though I will no doubt discuss aspects of the film (which, coupled with my caffeine intake account for my writing this in the first place) this is not simply a film review.
I will say that it is not very often that I come across a film so powerful as to propel me to devote an entire entry to it. It should be no surprise to anyone that most of what is recycled through Hollywood these days is just that: recycled and regurgitated shallow filth that has either already been adapted, already been made, or already been re-adapted with the sole purpose (it would seem) to outdo it’s predecessor in sheer absurdity. An absurdity which knows no bounds, limits, or depths from which to sink, further drowning in the seas of insignificance and mediocrity.
Knowing this to be fact, one would no doubt conclude that the medium of cinema is nothing more than the over hyped, over stylized, over budgeted beast we have allowed it to grow into, the product of our own doing (or undoing, as it were). Even so, every once in a while a film comes along that forces us (by sheer strength of will and content) to use our minds…the thing we often seek to disengage when we set out on our cinematic journey in the first place. Such films force us to come to terms with the very things we are seeking to escape, aspects of our lives we hope to never revisit. Such films challenge the established realities which we have created for ourselves and force us into a level of introspection that borders on torturous. It is precisely this forced introspection that makes such films not only relevant, but necessary. In the de-sensitized, overly saturated culture in which we live, such films serve as a reminder of our humanity, and just how far we have strayed away from it.
Silver Linings Playbook is such a film.
There have been a slew of films in the past that have dealt with mental-illness. Whether it be Jack Nicholson in his iconic role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, or Winona Ryder as an interrupted girl, throughout our collective cinematic history, there have been various depictions and interpretations of characters and their assorted plethora of mental conditions. One would think, with such an abundance of literature and film on the subject that we as a society would come to recognize such conditions and accept them as they are. Yet, even today, through the rise of the Prozac Nation and the many “advancements” in psychotherapy, there is still a disconnect that exists, a divide, a stigma attached to those suffering from such conditions.
I myself am a Borderline, on top of which, I struggle with Anxiety, Depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Having said that, there is an undeniable paradox that I encounter when I view the above mentioned films. On the one hand, there is a certain sense of connection and belonging in terms of being able to identify with the characters depicted in such films. There is a sense of shared experience which can be rather comforting. On the other hand, however, there is also a lingering sense of despair which grips the sufferer, regardless of condition. What I personally tend to find is that portrayals in film often depict an individual suffering from such conditions having some sort of safety net: whether it be a close friend, a significant other, or support system in terms of a strong family nucleus, there always tends to be something of that sort which does not always translate to true life experience.
While it is true that many people have such safety nets, it is also true that the vast majority are without such. The fact remains that there is still a stigma attached to the concept of mental-illness, a stigma which makes it increasingly difficult for the sufferer to seek out others and confide in them without fear of rejection or reprieve. While it is true in any situation regardless of circumstance that rejection is undoubtedly part of the human condition (indeed a basis for all social interaction not limited strictly to the human species) the fact remains that this does exist. And while literature and film certainly do their part to shed light on social issues such as these, one cannot help but wonder if there will ever come a time when the stigma will be removed, if not entirely, perhaps partially.
Silver Linings Playbook is one of the more honest films I’ve seen on the subject. There are certainly some elements which are watered down and diluted for mass consumption (I have yet to meet an individual with mental-illness as chiseled and beautiful as Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence respectively) but on the whole it does manage to get to the heart of the matter in a way that is both humorous and painfully honest, with neither element overshadowing the other. It is an emotional roller coaster that pulls no punches and does not shy away from the harsh truths of the subject matter. It manages to straddle the thin line between information and entertainment, socially aware, yet socially accessible, and therein lies the true magic.
One may walk away from it no better or worse than when one walked in, one may be moved to tears, while another remains indifferent. This film is not a how-to account. It will not unravel the mysteries of the universe or change the entire course of one’s life. What it will do, however, is begin the discussion, and that alone makes it not just a work of great cinema, but an essential social commentary instrumental in removing the wool from the collective eyes of our society and further dissolving the stigma of mental-illness and all those afflicted.