Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mental illness in pop culture: “Silver Linings Playbook”

Larry and I recently went to see the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.” I had heard that the movie dealt with mental illness, and I was anxious to see how it was portrayed.
In the movie, Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a man newly released from a mental treatment hospital where he has been a patient for eight months.
Pat had undiagnosed bipolar disorder when he arrived home from work one day to find his wife, Nikki, in the shower with another man. Pat beat the man almost to death, and as part of a plea agreement, he entered the mental hospital.
At the time of his release, Pat resists taking his medication, and he insists that having a positive attitude, getting in shape and becoming a different person will win back his wife and his old life.
This doesn’t seem too likely because Nikki has a restraining order against him, and Pat is allowed no contact with her.
Meanwhile, Pat’s father, played by Robert De Niro, has lost his job and his pension and is bookmaking in order to make enough money to start a restaurant. He is consumed by the Philadelphia Eagles and how well they perform. He’s insistent that Pat being back home is going to bring him good luck with the games.
Pat meets a friend’s sister-in-law, Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany is a recent widow. She hints at suffering from depression before her husband died, and after he died, she chose some very self-destructive behaviors.
Pat and Tiffany begin a friendship. Both are broken in their own way, and they understand each other in ways that others don’t. But they have their moments, such as when Tiffany senses that Pat thinks she’s “crazier” than he is.
Eventually, Pat asks Tiffany to give Nikki a letter from him, and Tiffany agrees to do it provided Pat participates in a dance competition with her.
I won’t give away any more of the plot. But we see Pat and Tiffany both make changes in their lives, and they come to understand themselves and their families better.
I thought the movie portrayed the hardships of mental illness very well. We see the confusion, worry and helplessness Pat’s family experiences as they learn to live with their son again.
We see the pain that Pat has as he faces his friends and acquaintances after having spent time in a mental hospital.
I don’t have bipolar disorder and I’m certainly not an expert. But I was impressed with Cooper’s portrayal of a man who seems captive to his emotions, who can’t seem to stay focused.
I especially liked how the movie portrayed the changes in Pat. He begins to take his medication, without fanfare, but with commitment. He goes to therapy. He exercises. He practices dancing, which he admits helps his focus and his discipline.
We see him improve over the course of the movie, and it’s due to all of those things as well as the relationships that he forges with family and friends.
The only quibble I had about the movie’s portrayal of mental illness was the way OCD was handled. Twice, Pat refers to his father’s superstitions and rituals about football games as “OCD.” I don’t know if De Niro’s character had OCD or not—it’s hard to tell. But those rituals were front and center in a lot of the storyline, and his problem seemed glossed over in the plot.
I recommend “Silver Linings Playbook” as a good movie in its own right, and a realistic portrayal of a person suffering from a mental illness.

Have you seen “Silver Linings Playbook”? If so, what did you think of the way it portrayed mental illness? If not, how do you think pop culture in general portrays mental illness? What needs to be improved?

Update on the foot
Thank you for all the kind wishes, thoughts and prayers that you sent my way for the healing of my foot!
I saw the orthopedic doctor on Monday. He told me that the break started out as a stress fracture but is now something called a Jones fracture.
He said it’s going to take a long time to heal because it’s in an area of the foot that doesn’t have a good blood supply, and one of the ligaments in the foot pulls across the fractured area.
Sometimes this type of fracture doesn’t heal, and surgery has to be performed to insert a screw.
For the next three weeks I need to continue wearing the boot and I need to keep weight off of it as much as I can. I’m struggling to use crutches. It’s exhausting to get around on those things!
I go back to see him in three weeks, and he’s hoping to see some new bone growth.
Let’s hope I won’t need surgery!

39 comments:

  1. I hope you foot heals soon! I saw Silver Linings Playbook. I took it as a "slice of life" movie. I feel Pat worked really hard to overcome his illness and was able to use "dance" as a way to focus his energy. I loved the movie! Whether or not it was a realistic view of mental illness, I can't really say. However, I do think having positive outlets for any illness can't hurt!

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    1. Thanks, Katherine. Dancing was definitely a factor in Pat's improvement. It was fun to watch that. Thank you for your comment.

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  2. Hopefully you don't need surgery on your foot. You're in my thoughts friend and I hope it heals more quickly than anticipated!

    I did see Silver Linings Playbook and I found it to be one of the best movies I've seen in the last decade. A truly wonderful film indeed.

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    1. Keith, thank you. I thought the movie was one of the best that I've seen in a while, too. The dynamics among the family and friends in the movie were really interesting and absorbing to watch.

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  3. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I really want to. I decided that I am going to see it once it comes to DVD.
    I like they way you told the review. No spoilers, at least not for me. I had been kind of reluctant to see the movie... wondering how it would make me feel afterwards. Would I like it? Would I not like it? Would it trigger depression or anxiety for me?
    I know that's alot for me to wonder about myself. However, with the sore spot I am in these days with depression/panic I have to be cautious even about what I watch on tv/movie.
    Thanks for the review!
    Hope the foot is healing more and more and more each day bring you relief... I know things like this take time.

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    1. Thank you, Deanna. I understand being cautious about what you watch. I am, too. This movie didn't trigger me--it left me feeling hopeful. But I know everyone is different.

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  4. Hi Tina, I too am hoping your foot heals without needing surgery, that will be my prayer for you as well as that you continue to adapt to your circumstances without additional pain and anxiety.
    I have not seen the movie. I did see it was nominated for Oscars and knew a tad of the subject matter. Some movies about mental illness or OCD can be detrimental for me, though others are helpful and I'm not sure what makes the difference. It could just be purely my mood at the time. I am glad you shared your thoughts on the movie with us. I just read a book which I plan to post about, and the character is supposed to have OCD and I was confused because though I saw obsessive behavior, I did not see OCD per se. I kept wondering if the author was confused.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, thank you. Some of the movie wasn't easy to watch, but it didn't bother me overall because the movie's message was so hopeful. I'll look forward to reading your post about the book.

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    2. I have been diagnosed with OCD and DeNiro's character reminded me a lot of myself, although I also have wondered whether what I have is OCD or merely obsessive thinking. According to the therapists I've seen, it's OCD. Superstitions are a huge part of my problem, and it was interesting to see this side of OCD portrayed on film.

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    3. Alexandra, I responded to your comment below, too, and I'm really glad you shared about your type of OCD.

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  5. A Jones fracture - I think that is what Pierce had. He has to go back again in 6 months because of it being in a growth plate area of the foot.

    That movie sounds really good. I haven't been to a movie in years, but maybe I'll track it down once it's on dvd.

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    1. Lisa, I hope Pierce's foot has healed completely! We don't go to movies very often either. But I really wanted to see this one. It just took us a while to see it!

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  6. I think it was one of the best films I've seen in years. I loved it. I have several bipolar family members. One of them saw the movie with us and thought that the portrayal was well done.
    I hope you don't need surgery on your foot! Crutches are such a pain, be careful. :)

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    1. Thank you, Tina. I'm so awkward with the crutches!

      I'm glad that your family member with bipolar thought the portrayal was good. I thought it was a great movie, too.

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  7. Tina, first of all, I hope your foot heals well and quickly, and that you won't need surgery. Of course you can deal with whatever comes your way, but I'll put in a prayer for no surgery.
    I also liked "Silver Linings Playbook" a lot, though I understand what you are saying about the OCD component. I liked that the characters were all real, believable people, and felt there was a fine line between the ones with mental illness and the ones without.....I mean , we all have "something," right? And I think this movie showed that.

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    1. Thank you, Janet, I appreciate it. You make a great point about the movie's characters. Everyone did have "something" to deal with, and I loved how they carried on with life despite that.

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  8. i have not seen the movie but it sounds good!!

    good luck with the foot, i know crutches can be difficult, unless you are 10 ;))))

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. I think you're right--crutches are easier to use the younger you are! :-)

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  9. The movie sounds good...but I haven't seen it. Continued prayers for your foot, Tina, bless your heart.

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  10. I've been meaning to see this movie, but haven't made it yet. Will definitely rent it soon. Thanks for the review, and I hope your foot heals well and quickly!

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    1. Thanks, Ann. I think you would like the movie.

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  11. I loved loved loved the book, the movie was good but not quite like the book. That being said it gave me some hope that my messed up self might not always be alone.

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    1. Jen, I found the movie very hopeful, too. I saw that it was based on a book. I'll have to look for it.

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  12. Oh I am so sorry about your foot there are so many bones in the foot just your luck to break that rare one that is too bad, I hope you prove the doc wrong.
    I have not seen the movie but will be watching for it. Take care B

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    1. Buttons, thank you. I really hope it heals without a problem.

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  13. I didn't know about this movie, but I will check it out. And oh dear about your foot. I hope it is healing well.

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    1. Thanks, Galen. I think you would enjoy this movie.

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  14. The movie sounds good, so I'll definitely go check it out. I hope your foot heals well.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  15. I hope you won't have to have surgery!

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  16. I really want to see this movie, but haven't made it yet. I can't wait now! Imagine white light in your foot to help it heal!

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    1. I hope you do see the movie, Jodi. Visualization--I think I will try it. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  17. Sounds like a good movie. I think I want to find the book - I don't worry so much about books triggering me as movies. And besides, if I can get the book from my library, it would be free. It is annoying that OCD would be glossed over (inaccurately, too), but at least it sounds like a start on presenting mental illness well.

    I hope your foot gets better soon. And good luck with the crutches.

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  18. Thanks, Abigail. I am still pretty clumsy with the crutches, but I've improved a little. :-)

    I want to read the book, too.

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  19. I thought it was striking how similar De Niro's OCD symptoms were to my own. I am very superstitious and am also obsessed with associations between things and people, just like De Niro. For example, when he said that Bradley Cooper's friend was OK to watch the game with them because he was associated with Cooper and Cooper was good luck, that reminded me of myself so much. I liked seeing this portrayed on screen because I think it's a less stereotypical type of OCD and, obviously, something I really relate to personally.

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    1. Alexandra, I'm glad you were able to relate to the character played by De Niro. I remember that scene with Cooper and his friend. I think it is helpful when we find characters in pop culture that we can relate to. De Niro's superstitions and obsessions about associations is not a form of OCD that I'm very familiar with, so this is a good lesson for me. Thank you for sharing your connection.

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