Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that everyone who has ever suffered from bipolar disorder should see. It is a movie that everyone who has ever had a bipolar person in their life should see. It is a movie that every possible kind of person that I know of, should see. It was not only the best movie that I've seen in a theater since The Artist last year, it is also the movie that I am finding myself wishing more and more could have been made long ago and one that I will absolutely be watching again and again and again.
This is the definitive film about mental illness for our generation. About what it is to have to live with it day after day after day. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest depicted mental illness but that was for the most part a device examining what it means to be an individual against "the machine". Silver Linings Playbook honestly and brutally depicts what mental illness is: a disease that must be endured. By many, many people. By people like me.
(As an aside, Chris Tucker's character is like many who I have known during bouts in the mental hospital. But there is no way, no how that he could have gotten out like that once, much less twice. Trust me, I've tried...)
Pat - Bradley Cooper's character - in Silver Linings Playbook? That's me. So help me God, it really did feel like I was watching myself up on that screen at times (minus the garbage bag). There is so much about Silver Linings Playbook that resonates with me. Why? Because there was so much of myself that Pat goes through in this movie, it's not even funny. And after just one viewing I can't possibly count all the things that he and I have in common...
The hospitalizations. The meds (there is only ONE drug which Pat talks about having that I have never been on). The wife leaving. Being without a home and getting taken in by Mom and Dad. The restraining order to stay 500 feet away from your spouse's home and place of work. The late-night manic episodes. The late-night manic episodes (I meant to emphasize that). The law enforcement officers having to come to your house (several times). Thinking that you can go off your medication when you really can't. Believing that you can reconcile... maybe being obsessed about it... with your estranged spouse. Writing the letters. The reminders - like the one that played at Pat's wedding - which bring back the memories and the pain much MUCH harder than anyone without bipolar can begin to imagine. Having people in public watch you with manic depression and not caring a damn what they think. The horrible weight gain that the medication can cause and yes Seroquel did make me feel foggy and bloated (I went off of it in November of 2011 and have since lost more than 50 pounds). Wondering how the hell you can possibly have anything at all like a normal life.
Heck just as Pat does, I had something taped to the wall next to my bed in the hospital to serve as a source of encouragement. It wasn't "Excelsior" like what he did though. My first hospitalization was in the spring of 2000. At the time I drew the cartoon character The Tick reminding me that "You're not going crazy... You're going SANE in a crazy world!" I still have that drawing somewhere too.
Pat is a substitute history teacher. I have a history degree and have substitute taught. He has a very strange psychiatrist. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist (make whatever of that which you will). The entire neighborhood knows about Pat's mental illness. All two of this blog's readers know about my mental illness.
You wanna know something? I thought that Pat's struggle with bipolar was dead-on accurate. But I also found myself thinking "Why couldn't I have had it as easy as he does?"
Real mental illness is no motion picture. It's an unrelenting and unforgiving fact of life. Believe that if you believe nothing else that I'm writing here.
And it's weird, but true: the last time I was in a psychiatric hospital, in June of 2009, a counselor there told me that I was seeing the darkness but that God had to... had to... have a silver lining for me. Just as Pat talks about often.
But you wanna know what else about Silver Linings Playbook resonated with me? It's the love that Pat finds with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, and I see now how she won that Oscar last week). Now to be sure, Kristen does not have a mental illness. But she is beautiful. And she is an amazing dancer. She has taught me how to dance as much to life's music as on the studio floor. How to look beyond my own past, my own failures. How to love and be loved. How to let go of things holding me down and to look forward to the future.
Some have written that Silver Linings Playbook is just "wishful thinking". That it's a story with too happy an ending. That it's a "storybook" ending even.
Silver Linings Playbook ends with our bipolar hero happy and optimistic, with his beautiful and talented dancer girlfriend in his arms.
Maybe some of you think that's not a very real ending to a story...
...but there are some of us who have our own Silver Linings Playbook. And it does end happily ever after!
Silver Linings Playbook is possibly the movie that in all the years I've had this blog, I would most want its readers to go and see for themselves. You will laugh and you will cry. You will wince with pain as you see what Pat and Tiffany and the people in their lives go through. And in the end, you will applaud. And I'll pretty much promise that you'll come out of the theater a better person for it.