This 2012 film, more than anything else, can be called a highly nuanced movie, with great screenplay and even better performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, but most notably Bradley Cooper, who I think completely takes over the film. The main idea of Silver Linings Playbook is to show how everyone has crazy inside of them, some maybe more than others, and how to embrace it. Through that, it shows us the importance of shared experiences and empathy and finally, of accepting and having others accept our quirks, since they are what make us unique.
The characters in the film, Pat, his father, Tiffany, Danny, Ronnie and Veronica, all have this central tendency. Pat, the most obvious, is bipolar, obsessive, impulsive and has no concept of what constitutes appropriate conversations. His father, Pat Sr., has OCD and aggression problems, the latter of which he shares with his son. Tiffany, is known to be mean and erratic and has issues following her husband’s untimely demise. Danny is obsessive and delusional as he keeps making up stories to justify his running away from the mental institution where he is supposed to get treatment. Ronnie and Veronica, while apparently seem more “sane”, are in a dysfunctional relationship which creates a lot of pressure for Ronnie, particularly attributable to Veronica’s constant need for amassing control of their relationship. Every character in the film has some or the other tendency that either makes them come across as delusional, obsessive or downright child-like. Perhaps the only exception to this is the therapist, Mr. Patel. What makes the film seem just as fresh 8 years after its release, and which contributed to it being touted as one of the best movies of that year, is the incorporation of comical elements to convey the dark reality of the characters’ lives.
I especially love how the central characters, while being full blown adults, have very childish tendencies, which is exemplified by the fact that neither of them drives a car and that they both live with their parents. Certain moments that stand out the most, are scenes of Pat’s father’s superstitious engagements on match days, Tiffany and Pat’s running moments and dancing moments. Focusing more on Tiffany and Pat, both these moments show us more important things below the surface. The dancing shows us not only of their chemistry, but it also shows us how in-sync they are with one another and how they both are willing to try new experiences in each other’s company. Pat would never in a million years agree to do something like this before. But he wants to change and he lets this be the opportunity for him to evolve. He agrees to enter in the dance contest with her. More interestingly, however, is their running scenes. In the earlier scenes of the movie, it is Tiffany who is following Pat around and we eventually see Pat reciprocating, hinting to us that the relationships is slowly becoming mutual, rather than one-sided. It also shows us that Pat, who in his previous relationship felt inferior, now connects with someone on a more equal footing. They both have a habit of literally running away – from their problems or their feelings. Paradoxically, they are also both brutally honest people. But they also still do run away from their feelings and problems. When they have the dinner date at the diner on halloween, Tiffany walks out. When they meet for the first time post the dinner party at Ronnie’s, Pat does the leading. When Pat finally meets Nikki and talks to her, Tiffany is hurt and, surprise surprise, she flees the room. However, because of who she is and how she is, this complements Pat’s personality. Because, when it calls for it, she also knows how to run to him. Which is what Pat’s delusional personality needs. Someone to chase him when things get to intense in his head.
Another moment that teaches a lot to us without saying much at all, is when Patrick says that he thinks he is the best of himself right now and that he feels Nikki would be that as well. In his head, that means they should therefore get back together to build a lasting relationship. However, with some perspective, he ultimately realises towards the end of the film that it is because they are not in each others’ lives that both of them are now at a better place. Because too often in relationships, we don’t understand what the line is between making compromises to make the relationship work and losing your individuality in the process. In such moments, only distance can give you clarity and insight. By ultimately choosing Tiffany, Pat is finally able to get to this realisation. He is finally able to move on from his ex-wife after obsessing over her for pretty much the entire duration of the movie as he no longer feels inferior. He finally accepts his quirks and deems himself worthy of being with someone who is better suited to him. Who is more his equal. Who has the same shared experiences as him.
What we learn from Silver Linings Playbook, is an ability to acknowledge and accept quirks, not just in ourselves, but also in those around us. To love people for who they are instead of the idea of who we want them to be. It teaches us that we should learn and reach out to people who have the same experiences as us and we should let these shared experiences help us connect with them instead of judging them from afar. It teaches us to move on and face reality. And it does all this by showing us two crazy people…