Written by: Matilda Davidson
By now, we’ve all watched the trajectory of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ from the People’s Choice winner at TIFF 2012 to Best Picture nominee at the 2013 Academy Awards. We’ve seen the movie enough times to O.T.P. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and perhaps we’ve even found a new love for “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder. So really it’s no surprise that the warm and fuzzy feeling we get from this film tends to overshadow our desire to delve into its heavy-handed themes of mental illness and recovery.
The film has certainly garnered an array of reviews, some commending the film on its fantastic performances and brilliant story, others condemning it for romanticising an issue as pressing and current as mental illness. Among the critics of Silver Linings Playbook, lead singer of Passion Pit, Michael Angelakos, has taken a firm position on the film. He explained via Twitter that he felt Silver Linings Playbook was a “cheap use of mental health as legs for plot”. The singer has gone public about his personal experiences with depression and feels quite adamantly that Hollywood has made a habit of exploiting mental illness for the sake of dramatizing an otherwise dull script. He explained in a string of tweets, “Be it TV or film, it’s lazy and usually, perhaps inadvertently, regressive. That being said, it has to exist in some capacity for discussion.”
To hear this kind of criticism of a film as charming as Silver Linings Playbook is upsetting. But it can’t be denied that Angelakos has a point. The film is nothing if not well intentioned, but many critics have noted that the film’s ending suggests that at the end of the day all you need is love to ‘heal’ mental illness.
This, of course, is merely a matter of opinion. To some, the ending was overly optimistic and unlikely. To others, Cooper’s character finding love with Lawrence’s was, as the title hinted, a silver lining to the otherwise difficult places the characters found themselves in.
At the end of the day, it seemed that it was not the big-kiss sequence that audiences took issue with, but what followed: an epilogue of sorts where we see the characters, once wrought with mental instability, all coming together and finding happiness. These endings are never satisfactory to the critical thinker, but while grappling with a topic such as mental health, a subject that already harbours large amounts of stigma, can loose ends like this be tolerated? As Angelakos puts it, “The movie will be a hit with those who think that hyperactivity is just a failure of discipline and depression merely a bad attitude”.
No opinion of a film like this can be considered invalid if we wish to educate ourselves and those around us. Silver Linings Playbook is certainly the lesser of many evils but it is worth it to consider whether or not we can afford compromise on a subject like this. At the end of the day, though, opening up a dialogue between Hollywood and the viewer about these misrepresentations will hopefully pave the way for a more accurate portrayal of mental illness in film in the future.