The promotional poster for the film "Silver Linings Playbook"
[Warning: The following article contains spoilers. If you have not seen the film and do not wish to have key plot points and character dynamics revealed, do not proceed further.]
As discussed in all of my previous posts, dramatizing mental illness and mental health treatment is a risky pursuit. Sometimes the resulting product richly moves and informs, while other times it exploits and misleads. Perhaps an even riskier venture than dramatizing this topic is milking it for laughs. However, director David O. Russell decided he was up to the challenge, bringing his adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel Silver Linings Playbook to the big screen this past November. The film mixes elements of several genres, but is ultimately a romantic comedy about a man with bipolar disorder and a woman with borderline personality disorder. The result has been a huge hit with every key sector. The Hollywood elite just rewarded it with 8 Oscar nominations and gave it the distinction of being the first film in 31 years (since Reds, Warren Beatty’s epic about Russian communism) to receive an Oscar nomination in every major category (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and all four acting categories). Critics have been kind as well, heralding the film as one of the best of the year. Audiences, too, have been enthused. The film has already earned nearly $80 million at the global box office (which is an enormous profit for a film that only cost $21 million to produce). There seems to be consensus that Silver Linings Playbook is a great film. But how does it fare as a portrayal of mental illness?