How familiar those scenes are to me:  the line in the hospital to pick up your meds; the mother who doesn’t really undertand (or try); the looks everyone gives you when they know you’ve just done a stint in the looney bin.  I can say looney bin and it’s not stigma because I’ve been there.  You say it and it’s a different story.

I liked “Silver Linings Playbook”– I liked it a lot, in fact.  But I still want to know where the line is between certifiably mentally ill and human being is.  Because in this movie, it’s hard to find.  Really hard. 

I found myself laughing a lot during this film– and mostly, the others in the audience did too.  But we were not always lauging at the same times for the same reasons.  Why did they find some of these scenes funny, I asked myself?  Is it funny because life is just funny, or is it funny because someone who has obsessive tendancies does funny things?  It’s a hard question for me. 

Let’s break down the characters.  Pat, who suffers from bi-polar, has the classic mood swings, angry outbursts, grandiose behavior.  But look at his dad, who exhibits some of the same symptoms (banned from a stadium for fighting, slaps his son silly during a fight–impulse control disorder, anyone?) and then some.  Mental illness is hereditary, folks!!  Yet no one in the family acknowledges this.  Dad, played brilliantly by Bobby DeNiro, is fixated and obsessed on a football team and is ritualistic to a fault.  His behavior is just as destructive as Pat’s, yet no one throws him in the hospital.  Mom is in denial about everyone’s behavior and, though we don’t see much of her behavior, stays in denial and and focuses on her ‘homemades’ for game Sunday. 

Tiffany is another character suffering from emotional issues and stigmatized for it.  After losing her husband, she seeks comfort in the arms of anyone who will have her.  Even the cop assigned to keep Pat in line hits on her after a public row.  Nobody tries to hospitalize Tiffany (thank fuck) but she is still treated differently and given chemical remedies to help her cope with her grief.  Typical of American psychiatry these days to give us chemical crutches to get through something that is normal in most of our lives– grief.  I”m not saying that no one needs meds at all, but it’s becoming clear that we are an overmedicated nation.  Take for example the conversation that Pat & Tiffany have at the dinner table about meds they’ve been prescribed:  they rattle off names of drugs like they would days of the week.  Funny, but telling. 

This film has been dubbed a romantic comedy, but there are definitely more serious issues going on.  I can’t decide if mental illness has become more normalized and part of every day life, or if it’s still just trendy and funny to talk about.  The lines are too blurry.

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