Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Human Conditions: Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness Are Not That Different from the Rest of Us-Especially When It Comes to Our Relationships

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Human Conditions: Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness Are Not That Different from the Rest of Us-Especially When It Comes to Our Relationships

Article excerpt

When critics call Silver Linings Playbook a screwball comedy, it's not just because director David O. Russell's movie reminds them of the riotous romances of the 1930s. It's also because the protagonists in this manically hilarious and achingly touching film are a pair unlike any ever played by Katharine Hepburn or Cary Grant. And therein lie the pleasures and the lessons of this--dare I say it--great movie.

Russell's film, which won an Oscar for Best Actress and captured seven more nominations, invites us to laugh and cry with--not at--these two humans as they paddle upstream toward happiness and against the current of mental illness that could capsize them at any moment.

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has finished serving eight months in a mental hospital for beating up the man he caught having an affair with his ex-wife, Nikki. He believes that exercise and positive thinking will cure his bipolar disorder and win back his beloved Nikki, who has taken out a restraining order against him. So he stops taking his meds and starts reading all her favorite books. This appears to not be going well when the ending of a Hemingway novel produces a 2 a.m. tantrum that terrifies his parents and wakes half the neighborhood.

A few days later, Pat's friends invite him to dinner, where he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose life went into a tailspin when her husband was killed just after the couple had had a terrible fight. Ridden with guilt and grief, Tiffany became clinically depressed and started sleeping with everybody (really--everybody) at work, earning something of a reputation.

And as you might expect, sparks fly across the dinner table, and the bipolar and depressive cases are attracted to one another. Of course, Pat is deep in denial because he's so fixated on his fantasy reunion with Nikki. And Tiffany is somewhat tactless, inviting Pat to jump in the sack without even a romantic kiss. The first date does not lead to bliss, but the romantic fuse has been lit, and we know the rest will be history--though with more than a few catastrophes thrown in.

Russell's movie shatters the stigma of mental illness by forcing us to see the raw humanity of Pat and Tiffany. His bipolar disorder propels him to say and do a litany of unexpected things. The outbursts constantly threaten to sabotage his clarity of mind and alienate his friends and family. Meanwhile, Tiffany's depression produces a desperation that sometimes seems on the verge of swallowing her whole.

Still, they are both so much more than their diagnoses--bright, gutsy people fighting so hard to become and remain whole that you can neither look away nor stop yourself from cheering for them. …

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