Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

     Continuing with our look at some of the films nominated this year for Academy Awards, I’d like to share with you my pick for the Best Picture of 2012—along with Best Director, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. “Silver Linings Playbook” will not win all those (the only likely win is for actress Jennifer Lawrence), but it deserves all those awards for being a truly uplifting film, the kind of film that the Academy has had a tendency to award the past couple years. I even thought it was better than director David O. Russell’s previous film from two years ago, “The Fighter”, which went on to win two Oscars for its supporting actors.

     “Silver Linings Playbook” introduces us to Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) being released from a mental institution for bipolar disorder. Several months before he was put there, Pat had an episode at his home where he caught his wife Nikki cheating on him and proceeded to nearly beat the man to death. Now, Pat feels good as new—or, at least, that’s what he tells his mother and father (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, respectively)—and has found a new friend at the facility in Danny (Chris Tucker). Pat also gains enough confidence to find Nikki again and reconcile with her, even though she now has a restraining order against him.

     So Pat’s parents do not think it is a good idea for Pat to find Nikki again, as do Pat’s therapist (Anupam Kher) and several of Pat’s friends, including close friend Ronnie (John Ortiz), who eventually introduces him to his sister-in-law Tiffany (Lawrence). Tiffany, it turns out, has some mental problems of her own, as her husband recently died in a car accident and she has for some time been struggling with that loss. For this reason, Pat and Tiffany seem to hit it off pretty well, even though at first Pat is reluctant to spend time with her because he thinks she is extremely promiscuous.

     But long story short, Tiffany soon convinces Pat to join her in a local dance competition. In return, she says she will be in contact with Nikki and can help Pat get back in contact with her. So Pat agrees, the two start practicing, and eventually Tiffany gives Pat a letter from Nikki, where it reads that Nikki needs some kind of indication that Pat has changed and is ready to reconcile. So Pat and Tiffany both decide that this dance could be that opportunity.

     However, because of a series of complicated events (again, I say, go watch the movie to see all the details), Pat and Tiffany face enormous pressure to succeed in the dance competition—mostly because Pat’s father made a bet on it. And then when they go to the competition, Tiffany is shocked to find that her sister and Ronnie brought Nikki! (Tiffany previously lied to Pat and said that Nikki would be there, when Tiffany really did not communicate to Nikki at all.) But in their journey to succeed and find closure for themselves, Pat and Tiffany succeed (sort of) in the competition, Pat’s father wins the bet, and Pat realizes that returning to Nikki may not be the best thing: he and Tiffany have now fallen in love. And when Pat tells her that he realized that she wrote the letter that she said was from Nikki, he tells her in a letter of his own:

PAT: The only way to beat my crazy was by doing something even crazier. Thank you. I love you. I knew it from the moment I saw you. I'm sorry it took me so long to catch up.

     So the two end up getting together, and the Solitano family is finally able to reconcile after months and months of emotional trauma.

     I remember seeing this movie for the first time over Christmas break not entirely sure what to expect, but I came out of the theater feeling extremely uplifted. And at that time, I had no idea how personal this film was to screenwriter/director David O. Russell, whose own son struggles with a mental illness. I myself can’t say that I’ve had friends who have struggled with such intense disorders as portrayed in “Silver Linings Playbook”, but I have many friends who have struggled with something. Stress. Anxiety. Depression. Loneliness. Anger. Even self-abuse. These are all things that many students my age go through.

      So as a Christian, how do I respond to these struggles? My first reaction is to say to love them; but it’s easier to say than to do, as we all have probably learned by now. But sometimes, it’s the only thing I can do: just love on people and pray continually for them. Sometimes, I feel like the situation is out of my hands. But it is never out of God’s.

     In 1 Peter, the author writes to a church faced with a sinful world, but what Peter writes is extremely relevant to us: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (4:8) That’s a phrase in Scripture that I love reading: love covers over a multitude of sins. And I truly believe that it does. It can cover even the biggest struggles of someone who thinks they are too far-gone for God to love them. God’s love can overcome all of that. And my prayer for you today is that you would discover that love that covers sin, and that you would love others around you deeply so that they can be blessed. 

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