Silver Linings Playbook Or The Hangover Games

Ash Isaac

Mental illness is a right laugh. At least, that’s what the Hollywood take on it seems to be. From the gleeful anarchy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to the dazzling savant skills of Rain Man, there is no station of the human emotional spectrum untouched by the trials and tribulations of those affected. By turns frustrating, subversive, irreverent, hilarious, full of giddying highs and desperate lows, of profound life-affirming realisations. And everything works out just in the end…right?

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat, a newly diagnosed bipolar substitute teacher recently released from the secure facility where he has been receiving treatment for his condition. When we meet Pat his life has been on a downward trajectory ever since he caught his wife in the shower with a balding history teacher. This clichéd show of spousal infidelity unsurprisingly sends Pat into a fit of rage and he duly dispatches the history teacher to his own personal Waterloo before ending up arrested and sectioned.

He’s eventually released after healthy doses of therapy and pharmacological agents and entrusted to the care of his long-suffering parents, (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro). His time in rehab has been an epiphany for Pat who vows to reconstruct himself and his life built around his own personal philosophy of Excelsior (Ever Upward) and finding the silver lining in any situation. The ultimate goal is reconciliation with the wife who has now taken out a restraining order on him and reintegrating back into the community that would also take out a restraining order on him if it could.

Full of manic, nervous energy, Pat’s self-improvement odyssey takes the form of endless runs while dressed in a bin-liner and waking his parents in the middle of the night to rant, ramble and rave about the state of his life. Pat then meets Tiffany, (Jennifer Lawrence), a newly widowed young woman who is just as damaged, abrupt and confused as he is. You guessed it – it’s awkward love at first sight. Although Pat initially sees Tiffany as a medium to get back in touch with his estranged wife, romance blossoms between the two outcasts much to the disapproval of their respective parents.

The two of them end up as each other’s co-dependents, Pat agrees to help Tiffany train for a dance competition in exchange for Tiffany’s help with Operation: Get Back Wifey. Against the backdrop of this burgeoning relationship we witness Pat’s attempts to reconnect with his family and friends who are all just as loud, opinionated, delusional and, on occasion, violent as him which begs the question why they don’t also have regular therapy sessions as mandated by a court of law. The films’ denouement sees Pat’s wife attend the dance off and witness Pat and Tiffany pull off all the routines they have been practising with aplomb. After rendezvousing with his wife, Pat realises that he’s actually moved on and is now in love with Tiffany. Christmas music spouts from everywhere as the two of them requite their love for each other. Awww.

Handling the subject of mental illness with sensitivity and tact was always going to be difficult and Silver Linings just about manages to tread the fine line between romance, comedy, drama and debilitating disorders. You could argue that it’s not really a film about mental illness at all, rather a high concept romcom about two incredibly attractive misfits finding each other. Jennifer Lawrence again displays why she’s the most exciting young actress in modern Tinseltown and Cooper puts in a more than passable job of casting off his Hangover persona to light up the screen like a modern day Heathcliff. In the end, everyone is able to come together during Christmas and enjoy the simple pleasure of eggnog and sherry and there’s not an ounce of lithium or Prozac in sight. It’s a time to be high on life and celebrate everyone’s shared idiosyncrasies. After all, you can’t spell ‘dysfunctional’ without ‘functional’. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.