Shortly after I finished high school, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By that time, I was struggling with depression and anxiety that made it hard for me to socialize. It got to the point where I was sent to a therapeutic school to finish out my senior year. I graduated in 2015, but still struggled with my condition. Since 2014, I have been in and out of hospitals and group programs and was bouncing from psychiatrist to psychiatrist. My most recent bipolar episode happened at the beginning of March this year.
That period of time was when I started to fall in love with movies. One of them was the romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook, a movie about mental illness made for people with a mental illness. I fell in love with the movie, but I felt a deeper connection to it following my bipolar diagnosis. To this day, it remains one of my favorite movies of all time.
The movie, based on the novel by Matthew Quick, opens with a man named Pat Solitano being checked out of a mental hospital in Baltimore by his mother. He gets driven back to his hometown of Philadelphia and stays with his mom and dad, and the latter is just as problematic as his offspring. Pat Jr. is played by Bradley Cooper, while the parents are played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. Cooper struggles with bipolar disorder and was sent to the hospital for beating a man for having an affair with his wife, Nikki.
For the majority of the film, Pat Jr. is experiencing what many people know as hypomania, showing he has bipolar type 2 as opposed to type 1 which usually comes with visual and auditory hallucinations. He vows to get his life back on track by reading and exercising more in an attempt to impress Nikki. His father, Pat Sr., has no diagnosis, but follows certain rituals while watching the Philadelphia Eagles on TV (the notable one being moving every remote at once). Pat Sr. also has unresolved anger issues that got him banned from Lincoln Financial Field. Meanwhile, the mother is left as the unsung hero solely from how patient she is with these two crazy men under her roof.
At one point, Pat Jr. gets together with some friends for dinner. Among them is Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Tiffany. Her role as Tiffany may have been overshadowed by the start of The Hunger Games franchise that year, but I will always remember her for the role, which ending up winning her an Oscar. Tiffany is very feisty and in your face for the majority of the film, and shows signs of Borderline Personality Disorder. Over dinner, she and Pat Jr. exchange notes concerning medications they’re on or have been on.
Something you may hear a lot during this review is “I’ve done that too”. The support group I go to for depression and bipolar disorder will talk about medication once in a while and our own experiences with it (since we’re technically not medical professionals).
When Pat Jr. gets home late, all he can think about is Nikki, leading to a scene where he has a major episode that results in him hitting his mom and fighting with his dad. They make amends the following morning shortly before Pat Jr. goes off on his routine run. During that run, he encounters Tiffany again. They get to know each other more and during an amusing diner scene, in which she confides to Pat that she lost her job by being a huge nymphomaniac in the time following her husband’s death. They have a minor falling out after he says she’s crazier than he is, but quickly make up.
While Cooper, De Niro and even Weaver turn in great performances that earned all three of them nominations at the Oscars, it’s Lawrence who is this movie’s MVP. She knows she’s crazy but doesn’t mind. In some scenes, she’s shown to embrace her mental illness, as opposed to Pat who is just trying to get by with it. It’s fitting that Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for her part, making her one of the youngest winners in the category.
Pat’s character arc may be one of the most relatable arcs I’ve seen. My most recent stay in a psychiatric hospital was about a week. Right before that, I was being monitored physically due to an attempted overdose on prescription medication. Since being released from the hospital, I vowed to get my life back on track. I’ve been eating better, working out more, and (like Pat) reading more.
I believe that everybody has at least one movie that they can connect to on a personal level. Silver Linings Playbook will always be one of my favorites. It was one of the handful of movies that was there when I needed help the most. And with that being said, I’d like to close this piece with a quote from the movie, courtesy of Pat Solitano, Jr.
“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.