“Silver Linings Playbook”: The Mental Health Issues

Silver Linings Playbook is based on Matthew Quick‘s 2008 novel and was adapted for the screen and directed by David O. Russell. The official movie description:

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything — his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet-and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

What kind of mental health issues are shown? Pat’s diagnosis is bipolar disorder. Others around him exhibit different types of overt issues. Grief, OCD, codependency, and sports mania are just a few that inhabit family members and friends.

How Well Are the Mental Health Issues Portrayed?

James BerardinelliReelViews:

For the most part, the main character’s bipolar disorder is treated with respect – it is neither overblown nor used as fodder for juvenile humor…

If there’s a criticism to be leveled at Silver Linings Playbook, it’s that the mental illness elements recede into the background during the final half-hour to allow things to progress as a more conventional romantic comedy.

Justin ChangVariety: “While the pic’s willingness to make light of Pat’s disorder may give some pause (at one point, he and Tiffany bond over which meds they have and haven’t taken), it doesn’t soft-pedal his journey to rock-bottom, and Russell’s technique so bristlingly evokes the character’s mental state that one feels sympathetically swept up in his experience rather than positioned outside it.”

What about Pat’s therapist? As it turns out, there’s very little of him (played by Anupam Kher) in the film.

Possible spoiler coming: Pat’s (and the audience’s) very first meeting of Patel immediately follows Pat’s violent response to hearing “My Cherie Amour” in the not-private waiting room. Pat confronts Patel about allowing to be played what is in fact his personal known-to-be-rage-triggering song, and the not-sensible, not-wise shrink admits he purposely did it in order to “test” him.

Not cool, in my humble clinical opinion.

Not a spoiler: Whereas on the more positive side, Dr. Patel does continually encourage Pat to make healthier choices…

Another spoiler alert, sparing you many of the details: …Patel’s not the best at his own choices. The eventual “dysfunctional” twist regarding this doc occurs outside the therapy office and is just one more in a never-ending string of movie depictions of unacceptable therapist boundaries that are never explained to the audience as such.

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