“Silver Linings” brings focus to mental illness

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“Silver Linings Playbook” has proven to be one of the year’s most vibrant, memorable films. Not only has it performed well, grossing over $100 million domestically, but it has been lauded among top critics as one of the best films of the year receiving eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and all acting categories.
This marks the first time a film has been nominated in all acting categories since Warren Beatty’s “Reds” in 1981. However, Jennifer Lawrence was the only cast member to walk away with the golden statuette, winning Best Actress at the tender age of 22.
But perhaps the film’s greatest achievement is its realistic representation of mental illness, which has been taboo for so many years.
In fact, it has even inspired Congressional action as the filmmakers and cast have visited Capitol Hill in order to inspire Congress to give more attention to mental health and its place in our health care system.
Cast member Bradley Cooper and former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy spoke at the Center for American Progress in order to discuss the impact of the film and implementing mental health care reforms.
Director David O. Russell has also championed the Excellence in Mental Health Act with several bipartisan senators and mental health professionals.
According to the National Council, some of the bill’s goals are to “expand access to mental health and addictions, reduce the use of emergency rooms for routine care, improve the management of chronic health conditions, and cultivate a robust mental health and addictions treatment system.”
It’s no surprise that many of those involved with the film have been touched by mental illness in their own lives considering there are approximately 5.7 million people in the US alone who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In fact, writer/director Russell stated he made the film “for my son, so he could feel less stigmatized.”
The film centers around Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a diagnosed bipolar trying to cope with his mental disorder by reconciling with his wife—despite the restraining order she has against him. Life gets more complicated when he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawernce), a young widow dealing with demons of her own.
Although it may seem hard to believe, “Silver Linings Playbook” successfully works in a ballroom dance competition into the story as well.
The film is driven by its unique array of characters who are all so wonderfully damaged and fascinating to watch interact. Russell masterfully explored the deep subject matter of his film through incredibly raw characters and was able to produce audience laughter in even the darkest of situations—a “dramedy” at its best.
Additionally, each actor in the film was nothing short of spectacular. Cooper delivered a career-changing performance while Lawrence once again proved why she is one of the most sought after young actresses in Hollywood. Robert DeNiro also effortlessly cemented his legend status in his portrayal of Pat’s eccentric father.
What’s most impressive was the fact that “Silver Linings Playbook” was able to hold a biting, sarcastic edge and still retain the story’s heartwarming spirit.
Interestingly, Mark Walberg and Anne Hathaway were originally slated to star but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. However it’s hard to imagine any other actor stepping into the shoes of Pat and Tiffany as the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence lights up the screen.
“Silver Linings Playbook” isn’t the only film that has sparked social change. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” also adapted from a novel, is credited as de-popularizing electroconvulsive therapy from the mental health care system. The film premiered in 1975 while the book was released onto the shelves in 1962.
Respected psychiatrist Dr. Frank Pittman has stated the work “gave voice, gave life, to a basic distrust of the way in which psychiatry was being used for society’s purposes, rather than the purposes of the people who had mental illness.”
This speaks to the fact that film holds the power to inspire change and influence our dialogue about any issue.
At the end of the day “Silver Linings Playbook” explores the many complex relationships that can exist in one’s life. The result is a charming film that has made an impact in and out of the theaters.

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