I'd like to spank the Academy

silver linings playbookDirected by David O. Russell

I’ve mentioned before that I have mental health issues; depression is what I have to put up with. It’s not fun, and it’s not easy. It has been especially hard in the past because mental illnesses aren’t something you talk about. If you tell someone you have cancer or diabetes, they will sympathize with you, whereas there are still people out there who don’t believe that depression is a real thing. “Just look on the bright side,” they say. “Go running. Eat better. You’re just feeling down.” But people who are just having a bad day don’t seriously fantasize about slitting their wrists or driving their car off a cliff. They haven’t written letters to their families explaining why they felt the need to do this. People who are just feeling down don’t skip their favorite activity of the year for which they have VIP passes because they are crying all day for no particular reason and can’t stop. They don’t sit and think about how worthless they are and how no one really would miss them if they were gone and how their pets would really be happier with another family anyway. Yes, everyone has off days now and then, but for me, those things were my reality. Every. Single. Day. Now that I’ve found an antidepressant that works for me, those things are thankfully not a part of my life as often as they were, but this is why I appreciate movies like Silver Linings Playbook that bring to life people struggling with real issues that are so misunderstood. It’s also why I started this movie three or four times before I could actually watch it all the way through and why I still wouldn’t have seen it if it weren’t for my medication. It’s too real and too painful, too hard to watch when I wasn’t doing well. Sorry for the very long ramble, but it’s a subject close to my heart and I apparently had a lot to say about it.

So what’s the story? Pat Salitano has just been released from a mental institution after fulfilling a court-ordered eight month stint there. He is determined to get his life back to normal and win back his ex-wife, Nikki, who has not only left him, but gotten a restraining order against him. He meets a young woman named Tiffany who wants him to join a dance contest with her. Hoping that this will show Nikki that he has turned his life around, Pat agrees.

The Good: The acting was wonderful. Bradley Cooper as Pat, Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, and Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver as Pat’s parents were amazing. I loved the subtle hints in Robert De Niro’s acting and character that showed that he, too, was dealing with mental health issues, although they were undiagnosed in his case. I thought that casting grumpy-faced Julia Stiles in the part of Veronica, a woman not really satisfied with anything, was brilliant, and I also liked John Oritz in the role of Ronnie, Veronica’s husband.

The music fit the movie perfectly, just kind of laid-back piano and guitar music. Nothing overblown or loud or fancy, because the story isn’t any of those things. It’s a small, intimate story about people working through their problems and finding out that when dreams die, it’s okay to find new ones.

I liked the screenplay. It made all the characters very real, not caricatures of people with mental illness. Or of people living in Philadelphia, for that matter. It helped make the people come alive. I appreciated, too, the humor in the screenplay. Yes, mental illnesses are serious, but funny, random things happen to everyone, regardless of their health. Also, I have felt the same way as Pat about Hemingway (and other authors) at times, so I loved that someone finally said it.

The Bad: I don’t really have anything to complain about here. I really liked the movie, except for two issues that were so bad for me that they have to go in the ugly category.

The Ugly: The age difference between Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper bothered me throughout the entire movie. I didn’t know at the time what the age difference was, but I would have put Pat at 42 and Tiffany around 23 just looking at them. There is really only a fifteen year age gap between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, but still. It felt kind of icky to me. While Jennifer Lawrence did a fabulous job, I would have been happier with someone a little older.

I would have been fine with it, though, except for the ending.  (SPOILER ALERT) I talked myself into being okay with the age gap because they were just friends, two people who were dealing with similar issues. Age isn’t as big an issue there. But then they were shown being in love and having a relationship, and I didn’t like that. It didn’t seem to fit the movie. I really, really wanted them to just stay friends. I wanted them to each know that they had someone they could depend on who understood them, but somehow by having them fall in love, it cheapened the movie for me. That ending made it seem that unless a man and a woman fall in love, their relationship is pointless. The movie became just another romantic comedy instead of a comedy about people dealing realistically with mental issues, and that bothered me. Silver Linings Playbook is still worth watching, but it became less meaningful to me personally.

Oscars Won: Best performance by an actress in a leading role (Jennifer Lawrence).

Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best performance by an actor in a leading role (Bradley Cooper); best performance by an actor in a supporting role (Robert De Niro); best performance by an actress in a supporting role (Jacki Weaver); best achievement in directing; best writing, adapted screenplay; best achievement in film editing.

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