The Hollywood Silver Linings Playbook: Fake Right, Go Wrong

To do justice to “Silver Linings Playbook,” I’m dividing this meditation in two parts.
First, I will tell you how great a movie it is and encourage you to see it. Then, I will tell you how wrong the movie’s message is in the end.
First, the movie is great.
Never has a film been made that so accurately and compassionately depicts the turmoil of people battling Bipolar.  As Pat (Bradley Cooper) plows through volumes of reading (reacting quite viscerally to A Farewell to Arms), erupts in rage over his wedding song played at the psychiatrist’s office, and explodes in violence toward his mother when he can’t find his wedding video, we see the ravages of the illness.  Yet, the person of Pat is not far away, as he moves quickly to remorse and regret.
Cooper’s portrayal of Pat is nothing short of brilliant.  Standing beside Robert DeNiro (as Pat, Sr.), Cooper more than held his own.  Jennifer Lawrence did a competent job as the fragile, volatile, yet strong-willed Tiffany.   The supporting cast contributed greatly, particularly Chris Tucker, as the funny delusional psychotic looking for every way to get out of the hospital.
Not only does the movie accurately depict one man’s mental illness, but the “craziness” in the family system within which so many Bipolar folks emerge.  From the gambling addiction of Pat Sr., to the barely controlled marital rage of Pat’s friend Ronnie (John Oritz).  Even beyond the family system, the scenes where a neighborhood kid drops in wanting to take a video for a class report on mental illness is spot-on.  The craziness of Bipolar is not an isolated aberration.  It is part of our culture.
Finally, the story itself (until the end) is exquisitely complex.  I often find myself trying to anticipate resolution as I watch films and this one had my mind going in so many possible directions.  It was a roller-coaster ride I thoroughly enjoyed.
But then, there is the end.
Every movie has a message which is driven home by the way the movie ends.  While the primary intended message of this movie may well have been to de-stigmatize mental illness (in which case it succeeded), there was a more subversive (perhaps secondary) message that won the day, likely as a result of Hollywood’s formulaic equation for romance films.
The “Hollywood Silver Linings Playbook” for battling Bipolar has basically seven steps –
First, meet a mentally ill woman who has stopped taking her meds, is lost in grief and is actively pursuing a sexual addiction.
Second, when you can’t handle her sexual aggressiveness (an offer “to f&%! me, as long as the lights are off), start back on your meds to mellow out.
Third, let down your physical and psychological boundaries when she tries to pretend to be your wife.
Fourth,when you discover she has lied and deceived you, go through with your commitment to her.
Fifth, when she tragically tries to pick up another man at a bar, rescue her.
Sixth, leave your wife and profess your undying love for her.
Seventh, Live happily ever after.
There are so many ways the movie could have ended differently that would have conveyed respect and understanding for both Pat and Tiffany’s brokenness without offering a prescription for spiritual and psychological catastrophe.  Instead, after over an hour of creating a compelling, compassionate story about two strong survivors, the movie disregards their unique needs and throws them together romantically to fit the formula.
One of the great tragedies of such thoughtlessness is that Bipolar folks desperately tired of fighting the demons within themselves and particularly those struggling to work on a troubled married relationship are given the fairy-tale illusion that “you can experience fulfillment if you just find someone as broken as you are who understands and accepts you.”
Forget your marriage.
Forget your meds (in the case of Tiffany).
Forget your values (like honesty).
Just feel good snuggling together on a comfy chair trapped in a system that perpetuates the chaos within you.

71 thoughts on “The Hollywood Silver Linings Playbook: Fake Right, Go Wrong

  1. I really liked the film as well. The whole dancing thing caught me off guard which is a good thing. I hate going into a film knowing exactly what to expect. (SPOILER) When he chose Tiffany over his wife at the end, I was disappointed. To me, it seemed that the whole message of the movie, in context of his decision, was that the only way to get over somebody is to find someone knew. In that regards, the ending just felt shallow in comparison of the complex storyline.

  2. I’ll have to watch the movie again. I didn’t see a happily ever after in the end. I saw to people come together in what would most certainly will not become a happy ending. I guess I’ll have to watch it again. Maybe my bipolar mind was filling in the reality as I saw it, rather than the reality of what the movie showed.

    • Listen to what the narrator (in Pat’s voice) says at the end as they display the romantic scene of Tiffany sitting on his lap. It’s as fairy tale an ending as you can get in non-animated film

  3. Maybe I’m reading too much into it because I loved the scene so much, but I think the whole theme revolves around his angry tirade at Ernest Hemmingway:

    “…and he does. He does. He survives the war, after getting blown up he survives it,
    and he escapes to Switzerland with Catherine. But now Catherine’s pregnant. Isn’t that wonderful? She’s pregnant. And they escape up into the mountains and they’re gonna be happy, and they’re gonna be drinking wine and they dance, they both like to dance with each other. There’s scenes of them dancing, which was boring, but I liked it, because they were happy. You think he ends it there? No! He writes another ending. She dies, dad! I mean, the world’s hard enough as it is, guys. It’s fucking hard enough as it is. Can’t somebody say, “Hey, let’s be positive? Let’s have a good ending to the story?”

    See: “There’s scenes of them dancing, which was boring, but I liked it, because they were happy. You think he ends it there? No!” This movie wants to be happy. So it ends there. Maybe everything goes to hell a month or a year or a decade later. And they could follow the characters into that ending, but as Pat says, “Hey, let’s be positive? Let’s have a good ending to the story?”

    That’s why I loved this script. It was great.

    • Thanks for weighing in with a dissenting viewpoint. I value your perspective.

      This is not a “good” ending at all.

      Yes, according to Hollywood dictates, he gets the girl (yet one who is so broken she is far from ready to be in a healthy relationship).

      Yes, they dance (which is not only boring, but an invasion of his psychological and physical boundaries as a faithful married man – she even gets him to dance by asking him to “pretend I’m your wife”).

      I’m all in favor of happy endings when they truly present a path to something at least approximating genuine happiness (or joy). The ending of this movie presents a path to psychological, spiritual, and relational despair, puts a sensual soundtrack in back and a (truly) “hopeless romantic” voice and completely ruins the gains realistically presenting the blessings and struggles of Bipolar along the
      way.

      Thanks again, Jeff, for your articulate comment.

      • Well I can’t speak to how it is to be bipolar, but I do work with some developmentally disabled clients, so I definitely understood the whole impulse control aspect of the film. I guess I didn’t see the marriage as worth saving, or even really up to him to have the ability to save until the final moments showed it possible. The whole crazy-stalker-restraining-order husband angle had me thinking the wife was out of the story from the get go. I assumed his arc would be getting over that (what I thought was as unhealthy) obsession and learning to accept it. So I was surprised they brought his wife back at the end, but then I guess they felt it needed some sort of who will he choose nonsense for the final act.

        That’s 90% of movies, or maybe more. Wrapping up stories is hard. I’m often quite disappointed by movies that have such great build-up but then fall back on the familiar cliches.

      • Again, thanks for your response. I really appreciate the dialogue. You help me think.

        Your response assumes two things I contend are Hollywood fallacies that have infested over 90% of the American public –

        1) Marriages the become extremely difficult are no longer “worth saving”. And if you show passion to the contrary, this is a “unhealthy obsession”

        2) You have to “get with” someone to be happy. Even if it is means breaking your marriage vows and merging with someone who is tragically broken and shows absolutely no indication of pursuing psychological, relational, or spiritual healing.

        I suspect you are right about 90% of Hollywood movies (I still have hope for thoughtful indie projects).

        Thanks again.

      • I was worried about how my marriage point would come across. That’s where the movie went wrong in my opinion. It gave him a chance to reconcile and he didn’t. I knew he wanted to, but there’s a point where if your wife is scared to death of you and you nearly beat someone to death in front of her, that you may say, I want to save this marriage but she refuses, so what can I do.

        That was the boat I was on watching the movie. Then at the end suddenly it felt they dangled this possible resolution in front of us. I agree that was a problem in an otherwise great movie.

    • I agree with Jeff completely. The author of the post will hopefully forgive me, but I think it’s reductive to imply a “happy ending” detracts from the value of the film. And, perhaps Tiffany was not the most steadfast or honest person on the planet, but we certainly cannot claim Pat’s wife to be either! This discussion is great though; it prompted a post on my blog too: lorte002.wordpress.com

      • Thanks, Laura, for adding your comment to the discussion.

        My point is – it’s not a happy ending at all. Tiffany is not just a flawed person, but she is, at the end of the film, hell-bent on self-destruction and a romantic relationship with anyone (particularly Pat) would only contribute to her dis-ease.

        I’ll check out your post. Thanks again for dropping by.

  4. I watched the movie, and reviewed it. But judging by your post (which is quite interesting) it seems that I did not dig too deeply into the ending. I was just glad that Pat AND Tiffany had found their Silver Linings.

    I didn’t think that they would necessarily have a happy ending, but I felt that the two of them had come to a point of understanding; of ‘comfortable chaos’.
    Not having much of an understanding of what it is like for someone living with Bipolar, I looked at the movie metaphorically more than literally.

  5. I totally understand what you’re saying when it comes to Hollywood creating a fallacy about “happy endings” and relationship hopping. I would focus on the truthfulness of Pat and Tiffany in accepting that they had a situation/problem/illness that they had to work through, and working through it together, versus Pat’s family’s denial. Did they tell each other lies? Sure. And ultimately, truthfully, that happens in a lot of relationships. Is it healthy to tell people to get off of prescription drugs? No, but it makes a better movie. Is there a difference between a marriage on the rocks and a marriage that has been left behind? Yes, but Hollywood shouldn’t be making that distinction for us anyway.

    I think there are some great thoughts here, and the mere encouragement to be more evaluative for ourselves is one of the best pieces of advice you could give to us.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful words, Jacob.

      I agree there is a life-affirming aspect to Pat and Tiffany’s relationship which could have been healthy (even holy) as a friendship. As a romance, however, it is plan wrong and destructive.

      Thanks again.

  6. All wonderfully written, great points you make here. No question that this was a great movie. Anyone would agree. As far as the second part to your review, I can easily see what you interpreted there as well. On so many issues, we’re told and teach that sometimes life is simply not fair or equal for everyone. When it comes to endings to stories and movies, there’s what seems right or virtuous and then there’s what sometimes actually happens. I agree with you that the secondary message and ending could’ve been different and could’ve showed something more. But, I beleive the writers and creators chose their ending and it still seems realistic even if dishonest and rushed. Again, wonderful wonderful review! Thanks.

    • Thanks very much for your kind and thoughtful words.

      I wouldn’t disagree that the ending is realistic – far too realistic. I am only dismayed that, once again in a Hollywood film (as in many peoples’ lives who adopt Hollywood values) what “feels good” trumps what is ultimately good, right, healthy, and holy.

      Thanks again.

  7. I think we all must remember that the script is based on a novel. In the novel the ending is beautifully described. Pat’s wife does not make an appearance, she actually is with the man Pat caught her with, raising a child(not Pat’s kid). This was not explored in the film. The relationship between Pat and Tiffany is built over time, Pat actually gets really angry at her for posing as his wife in the letters and she is the one who bridges the gap between the two in order to find a silver lining. I much prefer this version of events to those in the film. However, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence capture the essence of these two characters beautifully.

    Perhaps you would prefer the plot in the book as well.

    • Thank you for these helpful comments.

      From what you’ve described, yes, I would likely prefer the more careful complexities of the book.

      I would agree Cooper and Lawrence do a fantastic job develop two beautifully flawed characters.

      I guess my venom needs to be directed either at whoever adapted the novel for the screenplay or the director who signed off on it.

      Whoever it was, the fact remains that it was a terrible ending to an otherwise fantastic film.

      Thanks again,

  8. Thanks for the comment on my review of this movie. I agree whole heartedly with your reasoning of where and how it went wrong. The truth of how it could’ve / should’ve ended would not be something Hollywood would be able to market for mass appeal; so its easier to romanticize and play the “fairy tale” version in order to give it that box office draw. I guarantee, had this provided a much more realistic, difficult and truthful portrayal of how Pat, Tiffany and Nikki’s relationships would play out in the real world; the film wouldn’t have garnered such mass distribution and certainly no oscar nod’s.

    • You are probably right. It’s simply a sad commentary on the movie-going public (as well as those who nominate Oscars).

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  9. I actually agree with you completely now that I think about it. I hadn’t really thought about it like that while watching the movie because I had already known they were going to end up together just by looking at the trailer. Hollywood definitely romanticizes stories about people with mental illnesses. The idea that you will go into a mental hospital and meet your best friend or your lover isn’t necessarily true, but yet not impossible. I guess my point is that although I agree with you I think that them ending up together in the end might have been an okay choice as it isn’t impossible for that to happen in real life. If you do have a problem with ending, I believe you’ll like the book ending better. I won’t spoil it for you though.

  10. Your review raises several interesting issues. Concerning the movie itself, I think all of the cast did a pretty nice job indeed. Concerning the plot, I also agree it was pretty successful at de-stigmatizing the illness (provided that we accept the modern understanding of this “illness”, see my bipolar book review). Concerning the ending, I actually also agree that it is disappointing but for different reasons. I think it was not only feel-good but just simply no surprise. The wife was absent from the beginning and you have Cooper and Lawrence on screen for almost two hours. On the whole, I was disappointed as the movie chose the romantic comedy genre (the happy ending, silver linings) when I doubt that this is how bipolar cases end (drama would have better fit in my view).

    But now comes to my mind another movie with Bradley Cooper (and De Niro too by the way), “Limitless” which, funny enough is much more interesting from a filmmaker’s point of view but also what concerns the “bipolar disorder” I think. See the very interesting (and also very graphic/visual) linking between words, colors, light, speed of speech, the “infinite zoom” (the first movie to have done that); etc) when Cooper is in a “high” mood and the usual life colors when depressed (less developed than the “mania” or high phases). The style is original here. Of course this movie was not about bipolarity. It’s about a pill activating the whole 100% of your brain capabilities (we usually use maximum 20% they say in the movie) but the result is astonishingly similar. See the dependency on the “high” phases (and therefore the pill…), etc… The ending was disappointing too, and for the same reasons. But that’s probably just the spirit of the time.

    I would be curious to have your opinion on that movie too. Let me know.

    • I appreciate your perspective on the movie’s end. I agree that, with a divorce rate of over 90% (and a break-up rate likely even higher) “romantic comedy” is not a good fit for Bipolar folks. The idea of two mentally ill folks living happily ever after is, well, absolutely insane.

      I’ll have to check out the “Limitless” movie and get back to you. It sounds intriguing and could very well have parallels to a Bipolar experience.

      Thanks very much for dropping by and commenting.

  11. You make some good points here…. but I think part of Mr. Cooper’s character’s problem was unrealistic hope for a marriage that had run its course. For sure not every bi-polar patient should jump ship and look for a replacement. But love is indeed healing.Yes, Hollywood loves romance. But I believe the romance in this one.

    • I appreciate your comments and respect your perspective.

      All I can say is, I pray you don’t “fall in love” with someone who is…

      a) not taking prescribed medications for a serious illness.

      b) actively engaging in a sexual addiction.

      c) trying to “help” you overcome your appropriate boundaries by pretending to be your spouse.

      d) lying to you about something you’ve set your hopes and dreams on.

      I believe in romance, but this is a sickness.

  12. I’ve not seen the movie and I don’t personally know anyone who is Bipolar – although I might without realising it. However, both my sons-in-love (nicer I think than sons-in-law) suffer from depression. One mildly – usually brought on by stress, and the other severely to the point that he hates going shopping and being in crowds for fear of a sudden anxiety attack. I’ve been with him when this happens and when I see the signs: trembling, fear in his eyes, sweating and a sudden, “I’ve got to get out of here,” my heart goes out to him and I just take his hand and pray. My attitude towards them might have been so different if I hadn’t suffered from depression myself some years back. It is the most debilitating feeling. Medication helped a lot, but some people’s attitudes (mainly fellow Christians) certainly didn’t. I think I’m going to take your suggestion and watch that movie, Tony.
    P/S How is the writing/editing going?

    • It’s going quite well, thank you.

      A (nearly) complete second draft of “Delight in Disorder” is being edited by Leanne Sypes as we speak. She intends to get it back to me by June 20 so I can start work on a 3rd draft (I still have a final chapter to compose, but that requires a lot of reading I’ll do over the next 3 weeks).

      I submitted two humorous short stories (one memoir and one flash fiction) to 9 publications yesterday and I have strong hopes for them. I should know in the next few months.

      I received a very favorable review of my short story “Life” from a published author who had some helpful suggestions. I sent “Liberty” and “The Pursuit of Happiness” to another beta-reader. (“Life” is on the back-burner until I finish my memoir).

      I’m taking a writing retreat the end of June to work on my memoir. I also hope to attend a writer’s workshop in July where I will do a lot of “networking” and meet with prospective agents.

      So, it’s going well. I just have to constantly remind myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

      Thanks again for asking.

  13. I think I pretty much agreed with this on my recent response to you from my post on the movie. Something else just popped into my head though, I did briefly write this in my first response to you on my post, but I will extend my original comment. The part when Pat says that he understood that Tiffany had to do something crazy because it was the only way to beat his crazy, that part just does not settle well me. The end of the movie goes along with this generic idea that other people can help fix you and you can help fix other people and this system works especially well in romantic relationships. Maybe that happens in real life, but if it does it is probably extremely rare. The movie focuses on the difficulties that mental illness can bring to those who struggle with them, yet at the end they sort of dropped that reality and romanticized everything and gave off this message “well it really is simple to overcome these struggles as long as you have a relationship, or at least a close friendship, with someone . . . especially someone who struggles too” and you know, that may be somewhat helpful for people, but the reality is . . . it does not solve everything and it does not make the struggles magically disappear. The movie was a good movie, I love it and I love the work the crew has done to try to help those with mental illnesses (the work that has been done after the movie came out) and I understand why they made the ending the way they did, but I can agree that it pulled away from the important message, and even from the original message.

    • Yeah, if they could just have conceived of an alternative ending, it could have been a truly great film…start to finish.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  14. Interesting review. In my case, I was expecting the movie to go for some kind of modern, “edgy” ending, where one of them dies or ends up arrested or back in the hospital or something. I was actually relieved when they detoured into the Hollywood happy ending, largely because it meant the complicated friendship they developed didn’t have to end. I honestly didn’t think they’d end it like that, especially after the comments earlier in the movie about their age difference. In hindsight, I was probably too lenient on that in my own review.

    I’d disagree on one key point: Pat’s wife was the one to step out of the marriage first when she committed outright adultery. Don’t get me wrong, Pat’s violent outburst was 100% ndefensible behavior from numerous standpoints, but I got the impression that Pat was holding onto his dream of reconciliation long after his wife was essentially done with him. Reconciling isn’t necessarily impossible under such extreme circumstances, but based on her attitude during their silent discussion at the dance contest, from her I couldn’t discern any overt regret or even happiness to see him…though that could’ve just been complete lack of acting.

    Not that any of this gives Pat free reign to paint the town red when divorce papers haven’t even been drawn up…but I’d bet a zillion dollars we’ll never see a Hollywood movie in which a divorcing spouse waits patiently for months until their divorce is finalized in court and then allows themselves to start seeing other people. (It’d be an interesting writing challenge, to say the least.)

    Thanks for giving me a reason to think a little more deeply about this one.

  15. I agree too. Instead of playing out the subversive tone through to the conclusion, it seems the director succumbed to the Hollywood ideal and try to romanticise an otherwise brutally honest film.

  16. I’ve taken your advice and not read the latter half of the post. I enjoyed the first half enough to want to see it. All the best with the writing. You are definitely on the onward, forward march!

  17. Great review! Made me re-think my whole evaluation of the movie…. I kinda was suckered into the romantic Hollywood ending, but the way you break it down does make it all seem too formulaic. Hmmm… Food for thought. Granted, even in spite of the formulaic ending, I still love it. (One of my – ok, 2 of my all-time favorite rom-coms are Punch Drunk Love (Adam Sandler, Emily Watson) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carey, Kate Winslett; while they are also formulaic in ending, their execution is superb!)

  18. Thank you for your words here and sharing insight not all of us can truly bring to the table. I had that exact feeling at the end but didn’t know why exactly. I was enthralled throughout the movie and felt compelled to pursue life differently because of it, but I felt dissatisfied by the ending. I even mentioned that fact to my wife, but when she asked what I would have preferred, I didn’t know how to answer.

    One of the things I am most passionate about is marriage, not so much as commitment to the institution, but the rightness and wholeness brought about by absolute commitment to the other person. It bothered me a little bit that this movie made it feel OK to me for the characters to let that go. I was also uncomfortable with his complete acceptance of her repeated and continuous deception designed to manipulate him.

    I am really happy to know that rest of it was meaningfully accurate to the experience of Bipolar, especially since it touched a nerve in me. I also have a close friend with bipolar, and I thought of him when seeing the movie.

    I am curious to know what you would imagine for a healthier end that would also fit the trajectory the characters are on based on the plot line established up through the point of the dance competition. Maybe you can answer the question of what a better ending would be since I was not able to.

  19. I definitely agree that the romantic relationship between the two of them was very Hollywood and done in an unrealistic way. The handling of Pat and his wife was much better (and so different!) in the book and to me it made much more sense.
    It’s good that you enjoyed the film until the ending, but having read the book first I just couldn’t.
    Always good to hear another opinion on a book/film that brought such big reactions out in me though.

  20. There is more than one way to interpret the ending of Silver Linings. Of course in a Hollywood movie there has to be a happy ending, that sells movies.
    But there is another way to look at it especially if one is Bipolar and have lived through the chaos and agony that Pat went through. I prefer to look at as a happy beginning rather than a happy ending.
    I struggled for years with undiagnosed bipolar. When I finally found out what was wrong with me at the tender age of 57 it was a huge relief but, also frightening. I was lucky to find the right mix of meds early in the game. I’ve been living a happy beginning since last fall. I never dreamed that life could be this good. Fortunately I had a husband who stood by me during my journey. I am living happily ever after for sure. Everyday is a holiday now that my illness is under control.

  21. I greatly enjoyed your review of the film! I absolutely love hearing what others see – because more often than not, it offers wonderful insight into things I totally miss. Thank you for that! 😀 I especially like your analysis of the conclusion of the film. I chalked it up to “another cheesy Hollywood ending”; so your study of it offered me a much-welcomed perspective.

    I suppose I didn’t take too much issue with the ending of the film, simply because I personally find the institution of marriage to be intrinsically problematic. Of course, that is another discussion entirely, so I will refrain from elaborating. But, I love that you point out the fact that “problems will beget problems” with the resulting relationship between Pat and Tiffany. Needless to say, they both have a lot of issues, and for a relationship to work, each person must be strong as individuals first and then share his/her life with another person. It is highly likely that each will become a cracked crutch to the other and disaster will ensue…

    Thank you again, indytony, for this superb review! I give it 5 out of 5 Abilify tablets! 😉 Be well…

  22. I have not read the novel in which this film was adapted from. However, reading its ending, it seems the same as the film’s version — perhaps, a bit more reserved, admittedly. The reason I bring that up is because in the original post (which was a fine review of the film, by the way, well done) and the comments that followed, there’s much lambasting of “Hollywood.” While I certainly agree that Hollywood goes for commerciality and cliche over story and characterization in many instances and especially within the trite romance-comedy genre, I don’t think it holds as much weight here.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve interpreted the original post, as well as comments thereafter to be suggesting that Pat should have tried to get back with his wife, Nikki and work things out. Didn’t she cheat on him though? Isn’t she the one that gave up on him?

    In any event, I do think your point is well taken. On one hand, the film confronts the very necessary issue of mental illness stigmatization, but on the other hand, as you said, allows for this romanticized depiction of a “cure.” That is, find someone that’s also mentally deficit in some way and the two should be able to negate that difference. Fair enough criticism for sure.

    From a filmic perspective though, I wanted to see the two get together. That’s likely a conditioning of expectation manifest out of the genre, but the characterization for each was so well done, that I wanted to see their two respective trajectories merge into one. Even so, consider this. The namesake of both the film and the book, as well as the overreaching metaphor at play is that Pat views his life as a film and that he needs to find his “silver lining.” This understanding brings forth two points: 1.) Just as a I am conditioned to accept a happy ending, Pat’s conception of film is that it leads to a happy ending. Thus, he wants his life to lead to a happy ending. That doesn’t mean it did with Tiffany though because 2.) In both the film and the book, Pat is the narrator and there is nothing to suggest he is a reliable narrator.

    • You raise two very significant questions I’ll try to address.

      1) One possible conclusion would have been Pat & Nikki to come back together and work on their marital problems. Yes, she violated her vows by committing adultery. But, adultery (as terribly destructive as it is) does not in any way mandate divorce. I would admit, for the movie purposes (since Nikki’s character was not developed), this option would probably not have worked.

      2) I suppose the ending presents us with sort of a “silver lining” (at least from a story perspective). Yet, having delved into the reality of mental illness (quite well, in fact), it then abandons reality and instead of offering folks with Bipolar (like me) a genuine “silver lining”, it feeds us a false (and very damaging) portrait of perpetuating our illness by becoming enmeshed in someone as broken as we are (who is not seeking healing).

      I’m giving some serious thought to what a genuine “silver lining” might have looked like and hope in the near future to produce something (perhaps a poem or a piece of flash fiction) to present it.

      Your point about Pat being the narrator (and not necessarily a reliable one) is well made. I’m mulling this over as I consider what a “silver lining” is.

      Thank you for your very thoughtful response.

      • On your first point, I agree that adultery does not necessarily entail divorce, but what about the restraining order? Granted, I understand she likely felt her only recourse to his violent outbursts was to do that and leave him, but at the same time, maybe she could have been more understanding? I’m not quite sure; it’s tricky for sure.

        I look forward to your presentation of a “silver lining!”

  23. I agree on some parts, but disagree a little on others. I have since read the book since I wrote my own review, and as much as I agree with your thoughts on number 4 and 6, that was how it went down in the book. I don’t know too much about this disease, personally, and I’m not trying to step on any toes or act like I know everything, but sometimes I have a hard time not looking at the “issues” verses the book-to-movie changes. I was wondering how you thought this movie had a bad ending, and I do agree that the illness was relatively swept under the rug once he decided he loved Tiffany. With a movie like this, though, you’re right how they “Hollywood”-ized it, and instead of focusing on making it into a love story they could have spent more time focusing on how they dealt with their disease. Speaking on that, though, in comparison with the book — since most of the book was inside of Pat’s head, it’s hard to convey those kinds of thoughts on the screen. But all in all, I agree, and it was a good review 🙂 And as I said, perhaps some of my disagreements are just me not knowing much.

    • You may be on to something, Andrew.

      It’s possible the movie just tried to bite off more than it could chew. Or, that my expectations were misguided. The movie tries to be both a realistic and compassionate depiction of one man’s battle with Bipolar. Then, it tries to be a love story. In the end, the love story (Hollywood-style) wins the day.

      Strictly from the movie’s perspective, it works fine. But, it gives a lot of people the wrong impression of the nature of such a serious mental illness. It leads us to believe all you need to do to achieve happiness and fulfillment is find someone as broken as you (who understands your plight) even if she is still desperately destroying herself (through a sexual addiction) and others (through lying to Pat, pretending to be his wife, etc…)

      The ending presents a “Silver Lining” that is actually more like the glint of a razor blade.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      • I agree. I think it’s always kind of the issues movies present, especially verses books or real life experiences — conveying thoughts and motives behind characters is always extremely difficult. Although I agree about it giving the wrong impression about the mental illness. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you’re right — it kind of makes light on a situation that shouldn’t necessarily be made light of, if that makes sense. But I think they over-shot the “silver lining” aspect of the love story, and agree it’s more like the glint of a razor blade. Nice analogy 😉

  24. I’m not sure I can add much to a subject that has been so thoroughly and thoughtfully discussed already, but I think your last suggestion, to channel your frustration with your own piece of creative work, is potentially very liberating. The Hollywood version is just one viewpoint, and one that has been formulaic for so many years. Think back to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A young woman with mental health problems who has run away from her husband and seeks comfort in someone equally self-destructive. Of course he sorts himself out in time to save her. And the cat. George Peppard gets to be the hero and Hollywood lives happily ever after. Silver Linings Playbook is no different, but I like to think we are more sophisticated as an audience now, and discussions like this reflect that change.
    I do take issue with the idea that Pat and Tiffany are ‘broken’. The minds of people with mental health issues, bipolar or otherwise, work differently to other people’s, and that can result in destructive behaviour, broken relationships, low self-esteem, etc, but I don’t believe that makes a person broken. Society needs to look at the way they treat the illness and the person. As Nicole talked about earlier, coming to a point of understanding, accepting the idea of ‘comfortable chaos’ could be the way forward, instead of trying to make people’s behaviour conform to what is considered ‘normal’.
    The creative work of anyone that has first hand experience of mental illness will always be more authentic and truthful than the sanitised Hollywood version. So I say get on your laptop Tony and write. People want to know what you have to say.

    • Thank you for your encouraging words, Sally.

      I would concur that “broken” fails to convey the complexity of a person with a mental illness.

      While I have some other writing projects on the front burner, I do hope to read the “Silver Linings” book first and perhaps compose a poem or story to convey what I believe is a genuine “Silver Lining” for someone like myself battling Bipolar.

      Thanks again for the encouragement.

  25. Okay. So I’ve come back to read through all of these comments (as I love this movie) and would like to ask, “What do you think should have been the ending?” Now that we know the wife is out (as the book reader above said), which was my hunch during the movie anyway, it makes me wonder where the movie could have gone or what exactly you would like differently. I did not like the climax being based on deception, so I agree on that.

    If we remove the wife (she gave up on the marriage, it’s over) essentially you are left with this story of two messed up individuals. They dance. They enjoy each other, They grow to like each other They’re working through their issues, and then we end up with some happy beginning which is exactly where the narrator Pat wants the story to end. Now that the wife nonsense has been removed in my mind by knowing the book version, I like the story even more.

    • Very good question. I am going to mull this over carefully for awhile and hopefully present an alternative “Silver Lining” in a future post.

      I certainly think there is great potential in a profound friendship between Pat & Tiffany (with Tiffany confronting her sex addiction & grief issues).

      We’ll just have to see. As they say on TV, “Stay tuned.”

  26. I knew I was going to watch this movie last night, so I intentionally did not read your post on this until this morning. I wanted my viewing and my initial reaction to the movie to be 100% unbiased and organic.

    My first words to my husband when the movie ended were, “Aw. That’s sweet and satisfying. 🙂 Typical, though. These kinds of endings always work if written/done well, and this one is because I feel all warm ‘n’ fuzzy. I don’t know how real that is, though. Maybe in that particular minute is was… but in the whole scheme of life I’m skeptical these two are ‘all better’.I mean, you’re telling me that when he finds out Tiffany lied about that letter, something just clicked in Pat’s mind and now he’s cured? I thought for sure there’d be an angry confrontation over the lying. There should have been.” (By the way, there was something about Tiffany that had me thinking, ‘I bet she wrote that letter’ when she handed it over to him.)

    Anyway, we had a great discussion and both agreed that it was a fantastic movie with an unrealistic, but feel-good ending. The turning point for me, when I became skeptical, was when Pat realized Tiffany actually wrote Nikki’s letter and there was no reaction except for happily ever after. This movie when from an intense raw drama to a fun, romantic “chick-flick.”

    I love the discussion you’ve sparked here on your blog. I definitely agree with your reader, Oliver, to see “Limitless.” I saw that movie and loved it! Also, I am now curious to read the Silver Linings Playbook novel. I didn’t know it was a book and now I’m intrigued to read the original ending.

    • It sounds like your reaction was much like mine – only, that mine was perhaps more intense because I have Bipolar (as “Monk” would say – “a blessing, and a curse”).

      Yes, the dialogue has been great. It has certainly prompted me to think more deeply about what I appreciated and disliked about the movie.

  27. I haven’t seen the film in a while, so forgive me if some of my points are invalid because I can’t remember the exact plotline. The film appeared to do its job conveying someone with bipolar disorder, as well as someone undergoing serious grief and depression. As (almost) a mental health professional, I’ve seen bipolar disorder manifest itself in various ways, so to hear you relate to the characters on that level demonstrates the quality of acting in this film. The fact that you brought up the family system was brilliant – it’s something that we must consider and work with when dealing with various mental health issues, and one could really see how the dysfunction of the family system contributed to Pat’s symptoms.

    I personally enjoyed the whole film, even if the ending was somewhat cheesy and perhaps not the “best” way to start and continue a relationship (then again, who am I to say what’s “best” for someone?) It’s fantastic that you’ve started such a large discussion about the film. It may not have been the point of the film, but I believe that it worked to de-stigmatize mental illness and have people that don’t suffer from bipolar disorder, depression, or grief understand it on a more personal level.

  28. I stopped by to read your review. I appreciate your take but I would only say that the film sends the message that people with mental problems can find love. It’s certainly not exclusive for those with a clean bill of mental health. Also, just because the characters found love at the end certainly doesn’t mean their lives are now free of challenges. Russell decided as the storyteller to focus the ending on them finding their “silver lining” instead of letting them stay within the trappings of not having grown through their shared experiences.

    • Thanks for sharing your impressions of the film. I would simply contend that what they found in the end was not “love” nor a “silver lining”.

      Thanks for responding.

  29. Great review. I watched the movie after having read the book by the same name. I’m wondering if you have read it? It’s quite different from the movie, so much so that I wondered how the author could agree to his book title being used as the movie title. If you haven’t already, have a read. Oh and I agree entirely that what they found in the end was not ‘love’. Perhaps more just a good feeling.

  30. You make a good point about the ending, although I think the filmmakers might have been going more with the idea that this is a satisfying conclusion for these particular characters. I don’t know that they were setting out to make a blanket, generalized statement.

    • You are likely right about the filmmakers’ intent. I would simply argue while it seemed like a satisfying conclusion, had they followed the course of most the movie in accurately portraying Bipolar, they would have provided a “silver lining” that was more authentic and truer to life.

      Thanks for your comment, ianthecool.

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