“You Think That I’m Crazier Than You”


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

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5 thoughts on ““You Think That I’m Crazier Than You””

  1. I really enjoyed your analysis of this film with these two ethical approaches. Which of the two approaches would you say Pat’s father uses? He seems to justify all of his actions with the hope of winning the bets he makes. When he makes his final bet to win back double the money he lost, what is guiding his decision? It is ethical to bet on his son?

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    1. I would be inclined to describe Pat Sr.’s rationale as consequentialist because he believes that by betting on his son his family will be stronger and that he will get his money back. I don’t know if I consider it ethical, but I do see how this action can be seen as showing faith in his son and how that is important to Pat Sr. and his family. What do you think?

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  2. One of my favorite movies of all time. Along with Eternal Sunshine of the SPotless Mind. SOmethign about the depth of relationships, the dialogue, the realness of the acting.

    After seeing Cooper in fun stuff like THe Hangover I was amazed at how well he plays PAtrick.

    One of my best friends struggled with bi-polar. That too, the portrayal of victims of the disorder with such humanity is a real treat.

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    1. My family had the chance to see Bradley Cooper on Broadway in The Elephant Man over winter break. He gave another moving and realistic performance of a man up against a lot of societal stigmas.

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  3. I love this movie and am so happy you decided to analyze it using ethics! I completely agree with your analysis of the characters ethical decision making and reasons for the movie’s popularity; the characters are relatable. Silver Linings Playbook is one of the few movies that highlights mental illness in a positive, manageable light. Growing up with a father who runs his own psychology practice, mental illness and psychotherapy do not intimidate or scare me. I had a unique perspective as a child to the growing psychology industry and harsh stereotypes people have of the industry. Today, many people still reject the benefits of psychotherapy and think that getting mental help is a weakness. I believe this movie has helped break some of those stereotypes and allowed people to be more open-minded.

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