So I finally watched Silver Linings Playbook. It was a good story, to be sure. But I was more concerned with the portrayal of a bipolar person. Too often, Hollywood gets it wrong.
In this case, though, I think they got it right. The picture they painted of Pat was unflinching, often unflattering, but it never made him a caricature.
I have to admit, the movie was tough on me. I definitely saw some parallels between Pat’s behavior and my own.
Mostly, it was how he talked. He had no real filter. Sometimes he said wonderful, eloquent things. Most of the time, he said cringe-worthy things. Like, upon meeting a widow, asking how her husband died.
While I’ve never gone that far, I’ve had my own instances. I messaged an old friend on Facebook and found out she had a daughter who was 5. I responded that I’d seen them less than 6 years ago, so they must have conceived not too long after we hung out. Not surprisingly, she didn’t reply.
Other times, I’ll know the words aren’t right but can’t find another way to express the idea. So I go ahead and say it and make an ass out of myself.
Back when I was a landlord, I went to a friend’s party. It was a big house, and I was always interested in keeping tabs on what things rented for. So I asked how many bedrooms it had. The guy behind me snorted and made a joke. My friend was kind enough to explain I was a landlord. But bedrooms and bathrooms — how difficult was that, really?
The hardest scene to watch was when he’s trying to find his wedding video. Waking his parents up at 3 a.m., he’s practically frothing at the mouth. He’s single-minded, doesn’t notice the time or even that he’s shouting.
But the worst was the end of the scene. After accidentally hurting his mom, he lies on the bed, pinned down by his irate father, sobbing and repeating, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
I teared up. Actually, I’m tearing up right now recounting it. Because the only thing worse than the episode itself is how you feel when you come back to yourself.
There’s the horror when you go back over what you’ve done. Then comes the feelings of terror and impotence when you realize that you couldn’t control any of it. And, finally, the self-recrimination or, if someone else was involved in the episode, probably self-hatred.
Cooper was able to portray all that accurately using just body language and tone. Enough to get to me, anyway. In fact, I wasn’t just blinking away tears. I found that I’d curled myself into a ball and was pushing against the back of the chair, unconsciously trying to move away from the screen.
I’d call that a pretty good performance. (But Jennifer Lawrence still stole every scene.)
If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of the portrayal — both by the author and by the actor. Otherwise, what are your favorite (or least favorite) portrayals of mental illness?