So, I want to lay it out in the open that I like Jennifer Lawrence. She’s an adorable brunette, genuine and awkward, who trips over herself when climbing onstage like I often do, who has a mixture of strength and vulnerability in so many of her roles. She sounds like someone who would be a loyal and tenderhearted friend, with a lot of witty and funny inside jokes, and someone filled with genuine sincerity and generosity of spirit. In short, she seems like the sort of person that I would love to befriend, if I had the chance to get to know her in person. And, to be sure, people who have that same general mix of qualities that she has are also people whom I tend to like a great deal.
For more than three months I have wanted to see the movie “Silver Lining’s Playbook,” which stars Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker. I wanted to see the movie before it came out, though it did not release at first in the theater across the street because the Clackamas Town Center apparently only shows hits, and does not like to give early showings of indie films. However, once the movie got (deserved) Oscar buzz and started doing well on the awards circuit, then the theater decided to be a bandwagon fan and show the movie after all. So, since I had some free time today, I decided to see the film, especially because it got Jennifer Lawrence a deserved Oscar for Best Actress for her role as “the crazy slut with the dead husband” named Tiffany who is actually a sweet young woman whose emotional vulnerabilities led her to be taken advantage of often, and who seeks to find love with a fellow crazy person who understands her a little too well (they first bond over the medications they have tried and their side effects). Spoiler: the movie has a happy ending.
I thought “Silver Lining’s Playbook” was a great film, even if it was about the wrong side of Pennsylvania (being a native Western Pennsylvanian myself, as opposed to someone from Philly). At its core, it is a film about broken people and broken relationships, and how people find healing and redemption through fulfilling commitments and showing love and loyalty to people as they are instead of manipulating and taking advantage of them. It also has an extremely awkwardly romantic couple at its core, which I find appealing for fairly obvious reasons. That said, this is one of those films that both goes down easy (it’s immensely appealingly done, and very beautiful) but also a film that will likely provoke some soul searching about the fact that I can relate entirely too well to this film on a variety of levels (although I have never been institutionalized in a mental institution, even if I have known people who have been).
One thing I could definitely relate to in this film is both the theme of mental illness and dysfunctional families (and how the two often, sadly, go together). At the heart of “Silver Lining’s Playbook” is a dysfunctional family full of mental illness (tendencies towards violence, obsessive compulsive tendencies) as well as emotional manipulation and gross favoritism. Without going into a lot of detail, a lot of the interactions between the father and son at the core of this novel were cringeworthy to me, as was the nagging attitude of the mother (I really, really, really hate nagging). And, sad to say, I have experience with drugs given for depression (I was once put on a drug that was supposed to help with depression and anxiety, and all it did was make my brain fuzzy and made it impossible to focus on anything for more than a few seconds). As in my family, sports is definitely a common interest that forms a tying bind between the characters in the film, and alcohol abuse is a problem that is at least gently alluded to in the film as well.
It used to be that many films would present a picture of wholeness that may not have been representative of our culture as a whole but that at least provided an ideal for people to strive after. Recently, though, it has struck me that many films (including “Silver Lining’s Playbook) draw their power from portraying families that are not terribly different from my own background and that show the brokenness of so many people in this world, the alienation between generations, and the way in which people seek to find comfort in loyal friends and lovers to at least find some kind of wholeness and stability in a world that feels greatly cruel and harsh. This world is a harsh place, but we do not live it alone, and God willing we can find a way to overcome the baggage and build a better world for the future than we have known for ourselves, as awkward and difficult as that process is. But that is insanity’s silver lining, a greater understanding of the brokenness and awkwardness of so many people, a warm and sympathetic heart to those in obvious distress, and a knowledge that we are not strong enough to thrive, or even survive, if we are left to our own meager resources.