I’ve always wanted to be a novelist growing up. I love and still love to read and make up my own stories. As I got older my love for books merged with my love for television and film, and now if you asked me I think my dream job would be to write movies. One movie that stuck out to me in the last few years is Silver Linings Playbook.
The beauty of Silver Linings Playbook for me is it’s slice of life feeling. Although multiple characters are challenged by different mental illnesses, the plot is fundamentally about how a family and friends help and learn to accept each other. The film addresses the difficulties of mental illness through a lens that makes characters like Pat or Tiffany believable and relatable in a way that can unfortunately not always true of films venturing into this subject.
By providing a realistic representation of how an individual and his family cope with mental illness, Silver Linings Playbook makes these issues less taboo and more accessible for discussion. On the podcast The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, writer-director David O. Russell talked about wanting people with mental illness to be able to see themselves positively represented in popular culture and delved into his personal experiences with his son that helped shape the film adaptation of the novel written by Matthew Quick. Do you know any examples of books and movies that address issues of mental illness?
Focusing in large part on the relationships between Pat, his family, and Tiffany, Silver Linings Playbook explores the decisions and commitments people make and how they are rationalized. Throughout the course of the movie, Pat’s goal is to become the person his wife Nikki wants him to be and to be reunited with her. Pat’s obstacle is that he beat his wife’s lover to a pulp during a bipolar episode and she now has a restraining order against him. In order to get in touch with her, Pat chooses to engage in a friendship with Tiffany so that she will deliver his letters to Nikki. Pat’s reasons for becoming friends with Tiffany are utilitarian in that he considers the ends to justify the means and anticipates that his actions will have happy consequences for himself, Nikki, and his family.
Eventually, Tiffany gets Pat to agree to participate in a pairs dance competition with her. As part of this agreement, the two have a rigorous practice schedule. However, Pat’s father asks him to attend an Eagle’s game, which conflicts with dance practice. Pat goes to the game and breaks his promise. Tiffany becomes angry with Pat for going back on his word and confronts him in front of his family. In contrast to Pat, Tiffany views their arrangement in deontological terms. She believes that Pat made a commitment and that because he made a promise he should not break it regardless of his reasons. While Tiffany makes her deontological case in the below clip, she also uses consequentialism to reason with Pat’s father and back up her own agenda.
It has been a really interesting experience applying these class concepts to a movie that I really enjoy. I think that a major strength of Silver Linings Playbook is the believability of the characters. This realism allowed their decisions to be natural and for me to see how quickly people make decisions based on consequential and deontological principles.
Featured Image: Pat and Tiffany get their scores at the dance competition. http://trend-kid.com/silver-linings-playbook-dance-practice.htm