Real Life Lessons We Learned From 'Silver Linings Playbook'
Because "if you work your hardest and you stay positive..."
“You've got a shot at a silver lining." And chances are if you're reading this, you've also got a slight obsession with Silver Linings Playbook and have pretty much taken to heart all that this gem of a film had to offer us.
Love your whole self.
Plot devices, narrative conventions, and stereotypical Hollywood happily-ever-afters aside, the stigma that is placed upon mental illnesses of any sort by our society is a very real one that all too many people have had to learn to navigate every single day.
The silver lining in that cloud? Undoubtedly, it is when films such as this one take it upon themselves to wade through the stereotypical BS and make room for a revealing and refreshingly unconventional take. We find ourselves cheering for these characters as they come together to develop a better understanding of each other and their own complexities.
When Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany declares, "I was a big slut, but I'm not anymore. There will always be a part of me that is sloppy and dirty, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, f*cker? Can you forgive? Are you capable of that?"
Insert the applause here: Finally, a woman on screen who isn't afraid to be who she is, flaws and all. And the idea that someone who is unexpectedly even further off-the-rails than Bradley Cooper's Patrick is teaching him how to maneuver through society and romance and just generally getting your shit together is honestly delightful to watch.
Lose yourself in something you care about deeply.
I'm not one to go crazy over sports (or watch them. At all. Ever), but there is something to be said for letting yourself get really, really passionate about something that is outside of yourself.
The slowly blossoming relationship between J. Law and Bradley Cooper's characters certainly isn't the only one worth mentioning, because Pat's relationship with Robert De Niro's Pat Sr. is just as important; and that impassioned dynamic is a whole other level of East Coast crazy that I won't even try to pretend to understand.
And yet, the bet on the Eagles game and Pat and Tiffany's dance competition scores only adds fuel to the fire. Slowly it helps us to realize that the similarity of father and son, revealed through their manic obsession with football, will ultimately mend their connection and creates a new one that only brings them closer together.
Sometimes love isn't healthy.
We've all been there: Suffering through unhealthy, codependent relationships, being sucked under into the downward spiral of unmet expectations, and feeling that sinking sense of disappointment in your gut when you realize the person you've put all your trust into thus far isn't exactly who you thought they were.
That's what makes it so much more special when you finally find that someone who recognizes your crazy and appreciates you for it. That person whose crazy maybe even complements your crazy, and whom at the very least sees you for who you are in this nonsensical and beautiful and utterly wild whirlwind of a world we all inhabit.
And, you know, it's why they make so many damn movies about it.
If you round out your edges, you lose your edge.
Part of the pleasure in watching this film is the sense of voyeurism we get from watching J. Lawrence's raw performance as Tiffany. And the reason that performance is so real is that there is no judgment implied by its honest depiction, aside from that which society already piles on any woman who seeks to speak her truth.
But in fact, at no time in any of the three protagonists' performances as characters with very different personality disorders (Pat Sr.'s OCD, Pat's bipolar disorder, and Tiffany's sex addiction, respectively), does the script place blame on these characters. It instead depicts their interpersonal relationships with each other and learning to deal with their own idiosyncrasies in that very real and human way that we've come to expect of our favorite films.
Why shouldn't we learn to understand people for who they are instead of who we want them to be? Isn't that what life and love and friendship teach us – whether those we care for have a mental illness or not?
"The only way you can beat my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself. Thank you," Pat tells Tiffany when he finally catches up by the end of the film. "I love you. I knew it the minute I met you. I'm sorry it took so long for me to catch up, I just got stuck." Seeing Pat realize what the viewer has known all along – that Tiffany is his silver lining – is one of the most perfectly realized and poignant moments of the entire film.
Find your silver lining, whatever that may be.
Find the people who are the silver lining to your soul. Someone whose crazy complements your crazy, like Tiffany's does Pat's, or who is simply willing to put up with it because that's what you do when you love someone – you take care of them, in much the same way Dolores does for Pat Sr.
Whatever you do, you've gotta find that silver lining – whether it's the people in your life, or a change in your own mindset, or an imperfect and realistic and human combo of both.