Hollywood took many years before they finally addressed mental illness in film so conditions were specific rather than vague. If certain movies in the first half of the 20th century tangentially approached antisocial, dissociative, or bipolar disorders, the world finally heard about Schizophrenia in Ingmar Bergman's "Through a Glass Darkly" over 50 years ago, as well as the effects of depression in Louis Malle's "The Fire Within" not long after. It wasn't until movies of the 1970s when various mental illnesses became very specific, as well as examining how those people are treated in cinema's culmination: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Since then, many mental conditions have been examined, but few present how treatment and society sometimes fails those people. And it isn't often when you find that all wrapped up in a convenient romantic comedy package called "Silver Linings Playbook." While we we've seen plenty of films that show someone being committed for mental treatment, there's still a long way to go to see what happens after they're released.
We finally have a similar character thanks to Bradley Cooper stepping up his film career to play a mentally ill man named Pat Solatano. Even more so, we have Jennifer Lawrence continuing to step even higher in her career playing an equally mentally ill girl by the name of Tiffany. Despite a few specifics on what makes them mentally ill, it slices open a new debate that film needs to take on: What really defines mental illness in an individual?
Pat and Tiffany don't define the Schizophrenic or the manic-depressive and instead fall more into the trap of behavior that others experience without official diagnosis. In other words, it may be the beginnings of a realization that millions of people worldwide have mental illnesses that don't even have a name. Many of those people are brushed off because they merely exhibit eccentric behavior that nobody can understand.
We've already seen high-profile acts of random violence that aren't necessarily instigated by a mental illness known to the medical establishment. As far as we know, there may be dozens of mental illnesses that the world will never have a title for or understand. Yes, it's the type of subject that might deserve a follow-up to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
In the above 1975 film, we saw an array of mental illnesses that the mental institution didn't call out by name. Even Jack Nicholson's McMurphy character wasn't officially diagnosed with a definite mental condition, despite being diagnosed generally as crazy. It rang a loud bell that stopped at that point as Hollywood moved on to knowable conditions.
Now, as Hollywood also neglects deeper examinations of post-traumatic stress disorder in returning troops, let's consider "Silver Linings Playbook" to be a step forward in examining the unknowable. Mental illness is currently one of the top five issues in America that's being tucked under the proverbial bed because of fear and misunderstanding. A film on the subject doesn't have to worry about being accurate when it's merely calling out that psychoanalysis has a steep climb in the work it needs to do.
There's also irony in Robert De Niro being in "Playbook" as an Oscar-caliber, watershed film on mental illness. De Niro was the only competitor to Jack Nicholson for the greatest actor of the 1970s when Nicholson won the best actor Oscar for "Cuckoo's Nest."
- Mental Health
- mental illness