It’s the first Hollywood film in 12 years to use mental illness as the central driving force of the story. Not since “A Beautiful Mind” – the 2001 Best Picture-winning drama about schizophrenic mathematician John Nash – has mental illness been so prominently featured in a major Hollywood Film. Before that there was “Rain Man” in 1988 – with Dustin Hoffman as an autistic man – also a Best Picture winner.
And “Silver Linings Playbook” just might win too. Here’s why.
1. Movies About Mental Illness Always Win
From “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” to “Rain Man” to “A Beautiful Mind” – the Academy has given major plaudits to movies with a mental health theme. These three films won Best Picture. There are many others that have been nominated, including 2010’s “Black Swan” and 1945’s Hitchcock classic “Spellbound.”
Even TV gets voluminous recognition. In “Homeland” – Claire Danes won the Golden Globe for Outstanding Actress for her role as a bipolar C.I.A. agent. The show won Best Drama two years in a row – 2012 and 2013.
2. ‘Silver Linings’ is Authentic
In the film, Bradley Cooper delivers a lifelike portrayal of a troubled man with bipolar disorder just released from a mental hospital.
Why do Academy voters go wild for films about mental illness?
Well the voters are obviously made up of creative people – many of them actors and screenwriters.
Creatives have a higher instance of mental illness, according to this article in Fast Company – “Does Creativity Come With A Price? New Insight On Creatives And Mental Illness.” This piece was derived from an article inThe Journal of Psychiatric Research.
According to that study, writers are 121 percent more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder than the general population. Creative professionals in general are 8 percent more likely to be bipolar.
Even if they are not mentally ill themselves, creative types are more likely to know a peer or two who is. And therefore, they sympathize with the mentally ill.
3. The Acting Is Top-Notch
The acting in “Silver Linings Playbook” is absolutely dynamic. And many who are bipolar have said it is an authentic portrayal of mania and depression. This is an ensemble that makes you feel like you are part of the family – acting at its finest.
In fact, the acting is so mind-blowing that it has earned four acting nominations – Best Actor for Bradley Cooper, Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence (who won the Golden Globe for acting), Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro, and Best Supporting Actress for Jacki Weaver.
The last time a movie had four acting nominees was 1981 – 31 years ago – for “Reds.” That puts “Silver Linings Playbook” in the company of Best Picture winner “From Here to Eternity,” and classic nominees “Bonnie and Clyde,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Sunset Boulevard.”
Since the Academy is mainly made up of actors, they will undoubtedly herald this film for its powerful acting.
4. The Film Has More Buzz and Momentum Than Any Other
Furthermore, there is no movie being talked about in the media now more than “Silver Linings Playbook.” Sure there was a recent segment about “Lincoln” on “60 Minutes.”
But Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence or director David O. Russell have recently appeared on CBS News, “Hardball” “The Tonight Show” and “Katie” (The Katie Couric Show), among others. De Niro cried during the interview with Couric when asked about his personal connection to the film. He didn’t elaborate. All he said was “I don’t like to get emotional, but I know exactly what [Bradley Cooper’s character] goes through.” And other nominees are getting nowhere near the amount of buzz and press as “Silver Linings.” It’s also still blanketing the airwaves with trailers, unlike other nominees.
5. ‘Silver Linings’ is a Call To Action
Director Russell has said he made the film as a tribute to his bipolar son, so he can feel less stigmatized.
And with the newfound need to destigmatize mental illness after Newtown, Cooper and Russell met with VP Joe Biden recently to talk about legislation that will expand mental health services and make them more affordable. They also met with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and helped her introduce the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act.
Diagnosed or not, one in four American adults struggles with some kind of mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. “Silver Linings Playbook” reassures those Americans that they are not alone, that with the proper diagnosis, medication or therapy, they can feel like themselves again. They can feel less alone.