Monday, July 8, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Apparently, this movie has been sold to people as some kind of romantic-comedy. I enjoyed the movie, but I have a thing for depictions of the slow-motion train wrecks that are other people's lives.

First of all, let's be clear: Everyone in the film is crazy, not just the Bradley Cooper character ("Pat"), who was just released from a psychiatric hospital. For example, the Jennifer Lawrence character ("Tiffany") is a fine example of Borderline Personality Disorder (substance abuse -- drinking straight vodkas before the dance performance; promiscuity; mood instabilty; chronic feelings of emptiness; uncertain sense of identity; etc.). If someone ever tells you that they often feel "empty," don't continue dating them.

Tiffany: I do this! Time after time after time! I do all this shit for other people! And then I wake up and I'm empty! I have nothing!

Pat's father (Robert de Niro) has got what we used to call an obsessive neurosis; nowadays we might exaggerate and call it OCD. It's a nice portrayal of the common derangement typical of sports fanatics. The mother is probably a hysteric with a primary defense mechanism of denial.

Pat's best friend (the guy who is married to Julia Styles) is probably the most interesting character, in that he is the most disturbed. If he loses his job and thus his income, which is the only shred of identity he has, he won't be able to face telling his wife, so he'll have to kill her when she comes home from her latest trip to the mall. Then of course he'll have to kill the baby, not because he wouldn't want it to grow up without a mother, but because he couldn't stand for it to grow up knowing that it's father was a monster who killed it's mother. Then he'll kill himself. Typical family annihilator.

The Julia Styles character is a soulless monster, of course, warped by home remodeling shows and the Pottery Barn catalog. She could never be happy in a home without high-end countertops and the worst thing is -- she has no idea why that is. She doesn't like those expensive things -- other people and the media have told her that those are the kind of things that she should like. She has no idea what she actually likes or wants. Which means that she doesn't have a self anymore.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Patel, is a nutcase, too, which is why he would be found at a Philadelphia Eagles game, shirtless and with his face painted green. The "bonding" and "community-feeling" at such an event is no different, and no less pathological, than at a 1930s Nazi rally. (What's amazing is that the Nazis got people to lose themselves -- their selves -- in a pseudo-transcendent ideology without selling them beer first.) Note that Dr. Patel is the only psychiatrist in the world who wouldn't make adherence to mood-stabilizing medication a condition for continued treatment. Because Patel does not insist that Pat take medication (of any sort), we know that not even Patel believes in Pat's phoney-baloney bipolar diagnosis.

Does Pat have bipolar disorder, as the film suggests? Of course not. He very nearly killed the man he caught naked in the shower with his wife. If we label that act "crazy", then it follows that the person who did it must be crazy (who else does crazy things except crazy people?). If A, then B; B, therefore, A. If you are crazy (A), you do crazy things like trying to kill your romantic rival (B). You tried to kill your romantic rival (B), so therefore you must be crazy (A). That's a logical fallacy. The bipolar diagnosis was a legal ploy, concocted by Pat's defense attorney with the connivance of a compliant legal system -- a plea bargain: We don't want to try and convict you for trying to kill this guy, so go to a psych hospital for a few months instead. Note that Pat's best friend in the hospital (Chris Tucker) was also in for assault, and he was high on meth as well. His "ADHD" and "anxiety disorder" had nothing to do with the violence committed.

Oh, and by the way, Tiffany's dead husband? Think about why he would do something inherently dangerous like stopping to help a stranger fix a flat on a rainy night on the highway. After all, he had a new purchase from Victoria's Secret in the car that he was going to present to Tiffany that night in order to rekindle their flame. Perhaps he was ambivalent about getting back home to her? Maybe taking the chance of being killed by the side of the road doesn't seem so bad when the other option is going home to your borderline wife?

I'm pretty sure that they shouldn't ask me to write the sequel to this bleak movie.


  1. That paragraph on Dr. Patel is some of your best writing yet.

    I've wondered whether this movie was actually, in its way, dangerous, in that it encouraged people to treat serious mental illness as something harmless and amusing ...




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