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.

Five Favorite Movies for the Christmas Season

watching movie

First, a disclaimer…

The last time I went to a movie theater was to see “The Lion King” in its first run.  Not only do I not have movie channels, I haven’t owned a TV in over 20 years.  When I recently moved out on my own, I got a trial subscription to “Amazon Prime.”   But, instead of watching movies, I watched the first 3 seasons of “My Name is Earl”.

Still, I say even a widowed octogenarian can write a review of great sex (even if it’s been years).  It doesn’t have to be the latest to be the greatest.

Another thing, I decided to include both movies that are about Christmas or have Christmas scenes in them as well as movies that convey Christ-like themes and have an overall inspirational component to them.

One the nice things about this list is you won’t find anything new.  You won’t have to bundle up and shell out $10 at a theater (minus the popcorn).  You won’t find any new releases you have to wait for (and pay more for) at the video store.  If Netflix and Amazon can learn to work together, you can get a free trial subscription to either of them and stream these for free.

So, here goes, in no particular order…

A Christmas Story – The endearing tale of Ralphie and his longing for a treasured “Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun”.  It’s a fun-filled timeless treasure for imperfect families (like yours) to watch together.

Simon Birch (loosely based on John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany).  The story of one special boy and how he persistently and methodically discovers and carries out God’s purpose for his life.  Simon is no saint, however.  His hormones get the better of him in the hilarious Christmas pageant scene that literally brings the house down.

Tender Mercies – As the movie opens we see Mac Sledge (played by Robert Duvall) hit rock bottom.  We then follow his path toward redemption, one step at a time.  Nothing preachy, here, just the good news in real life.

The Mission – Robert Deniro and Jeremy Irons play a mercenary and a missionary (respectively) who, after a dramatic conversion encounter, wind up working together for the good of a remote South American Indian tribe.  Ultimately, however, they must decide how to battle forces beyond their control.

I Confess – In this lesser-known Hitchcock film, Montgomery Cliff plays a young priest who chooses to face trial for murder rather than break the sanctity of the confessional.

How about you? What are some of your favorites I might check out this holiday season?  I still have a little time on my free trial!

(photo “Watching Movie” pinpricksome rights reserved)


– Introduction to “The 12 Posts of  Christmas

– In the first post of Christmas, I truly gave to you…. “God is With Us (a Christmas Story based on Matthew 1.18-2.12)

– In the second post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Assaulting a Felon with a Fruitcake.”

– In the third post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “Some of the Best Christmas Blog Posts for 2012

– In the fourth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you… “I Wonder as I Wander

– In the fifth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Be More Like a Child at Christmas (and beyond)

– In the seventh post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “From India to Indiana: My New E-Pal

– In the eighth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “What Sam Found in His Backpack After Break (A Prompted Poem)

– In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “The Precise Dilemma: A Book Review

– In the tenth post of Christmas, I truly gave to you – “Potentially Praiseworthy Poems Posted on WordPress