There have been many movies about mental illness, and many of them have been Oscar bait, but Silver Linings Playbook starring newly-crowned Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper is the first we can recall that makes being crazy appealing. Sure, the crazy people in this movie can be annoying and unpredictable, but mostly they’re cute and funny and you never really get the impression that they could harm themselves or others. Yes, Patrick (Bradley Cooper) almost beats a man to death, but that man deserved to have the crap kicked out of him. And Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) had sex with everyone at her place of work, but she was depressed plus it only makes her hotter.
Silver Linings Playbook romanticizes manic-depression (We prefer this term to the current “bipolar”) and deftly sidesteps its more disturbing aspects. It almost makes you want to be nuts. In this undeniably entertaining romantic comedy, the one thing a crazy man needs to become sane is the love of a strong woman and some choreography. So she manipulates him, so what, it’s for his own good.
Have you ever spoken to an unmedicated manic-depressive? They talk in loops, and the loops lead to more loops, and it’s frustrating to both of you because you can’t seem to escape from the loop. They can’t stop even if they want to; they are not in control. It’s like they’ve got their mind on their mind and they’re talking to you but watching themselves at the same time. And the scary part is not the possibility that they’ll attack you, but the thought that take a synapse here and there and that could be you.
But why go into the fear and loathing stuff when Patrick and Tiffany are so cute! Early on we get a sense of Patrick’s dangerous rage, but before long he is tamed by drugs and Tiffany. You know why we like Jennifer Lawrence so much? Because in an industry full of fakes, she comes across as a level-headed, real person—a girl with a well-developed bullshit detector. Not for one moment do we believe that she’s loony.
Meanwhile Robert De Niro gives the rare post-Heat performance that doesn’t make us want to club him with ancient Betamax copies of Godfather II and Raging Bull.
Crazy person movie: Puzzle of a Downfall Child by Jerry Schatzberg. Reminds us of people we know, except that they don’t look like Faye Dunaway. Watch it for the insanity, or the outfits.