Should Silver Linings Playbook movie have been named F-ing Silver Linings Playbook?
Or maybe the Silver Linings F-ing Playbook? It’s about bringing good out of bad situations, no matter the mental illness or how life affects people - in this case, Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, who is bipolar.
But there seems to be another lining to the movie - that which writer and director David O. Russell added, perhaps unnecessarily. The f-word, or as people on TV often refer to it, the f-bomb, was added to the script by Russell - by the dozens. There are five or ten in the book, "The Silver Linings Playbook," written by Matthew Quick. And it’s a good thing there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie - that it was “based” on the book, published in 2009.
Russell would certainly not want the author to get credit for all of variations on the word, that he alone, as writer and director, is responsible for. The movie centers around Pat (Bradley Cooper), his estranged wife, his father, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro), and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pat gets into a fight, which lands him in a treatment facility for nearly a year, over his wife having an affair in his house.
The vast majority of f-words added to the dialogue are given to the main characters - Pat Sr., Pat and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). In all, Pat Sr. is at the top with 26; Cooper is next, with 23, and Lawrence gets 19. In a fight outside the Eagles stadium, Pat’s brother, Jake (Shea Whigham), gets two and his friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), gets three. There is no explanation as to why Russell adds the profanity, though claiming his son was an inspiration for the movie in the short documentary included in the DVD.
“It was the hardest thing I’d ever seen in my life and the most difficult thing I had dealt with,” Russell says. “It forced everybody in the family to grow their heart many times.” I suppose the question is whether Russell’s son graced his house with variations on the f-word, or that it’s just the profanity-laced Hollywood world that Russell lives in. “I was looking for a story that would help my son feel like he was part of the world,” Russell says.
So what was the motive? Was it that Lawrence must prove herself to be as nasty as Pat and Pat Sr.? DeNiro goes off on a 11-f-word-laced rant that surely must define him as an actor; he is very upset with Pat, because he got into a fight and the Eagles lost the game. If the movie were not held up to a standard of supporting those with mental disease, it probably would not matter.
Quick evidently was not bothered by the profanity, or maybe he was paid so much for the rights to the movie, that he did not care. He says he wrote the book to help people dealing with mental illness so they would not feel alone. “Pat is someone who is trying to get his life together,” Quick says, as someone who has struggled with depression.
“I was trying to become a writer and it was a really tough time for me,” he says. “I needed to believe in silver linings. So I wrote this book to help me see that silver linings are possible.
Also in the testimonial documentary - Dr. Oz (Mehmet Cengiz Oz). He says it’s a realistic portrayal of daily life for people who are struggling with mental disease.
“People are struggling with depression and anxiety, and sometimes more severe challenges,” Oz says. Dr. Jeffrey Leiberman, a research and teaching doctor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, claims the movie has a very positive and constructive message about mental illness.
“(It depicts) bipolar disorder in a way that is realistic in terms of how it occurs in an individuals life, in the context of their family and their daily life,” he says. The idea seems to be that any kind of movie about mental illness is a good message. But is this really the case?
If anything, the movie would seem to say that profanity can help solve some of life’s problems. But people who really know mental illness should know that the ending is really a fantasy. There are problems with the movie: Pat has serious anger and haunting voice or song issues, which he associates with a traumatic event. And yet remarkably, he able to transform himself into someone who is able to unconditionally love a seriously promiscuous woman by the end of the movie. (This does not happen in the book).
People who are struggling with illness, like Pat, rarely get better by staying with people (like his father) with nearly identical problems - venting their anger in a way that is flaunted in this movie. In general, it is not a redeeming quality, no matter what the mental illness. Profanity as a method of expressing anger or hurt feelings can often just produce more anger and violence.
A 2001 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry involving 49 people with depersonalization disorder (a mental disorder in which a person has a feeling of detachment or estrangement from one’s self) and 26 emotionally healthy people, found that yelling and other forms of emotional abuse was a more significant predictor of mental illness than sexual and physical abuse.
The frequency of anger in the family is something that many families can relate to. According to a 2003 study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family, 88 percent of the 991 families interviewed admitted shouting, yelling or screaming at their children in the previous year. That percentage jumped to 98 percent in families with 7-year-old children. Often profanity like this accompanies violence, which is why Pat was sent to live in a mental institution for nearly a year in the first place.
Would the fact that Pat and Tiffany are good at expressing themselves with the f-word make them loving, productive parents? Or would the relationship be destined to self-destruct, and their children with them? Psychologist Myrna B. Shure Ph.D. of Drexel University, writes about children and violence at the web site Act Against Anger - part of the American Psychological Association.
She has written more than a dozen books on helping parents and teens cope with family situations, without having to resort to yelling, profanity and violence - for more than 30 years.
“Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others,” is just one of her more recent books on the topic.
“Children can become immune to being yelled at and start to tune it out,” Shure says. Her research shows that parents whose only way of disciplining their children is yelling, demanding or commanding and have children at age four or five are more likely to display physical or verbal aggression, social withdrawal, and a lack of positive/prosocial behaviors, such as sharing and empathy.
Shure says instead of yelling, which makes children feel angry and frustrated, parents should use a problem-solving approach in which children are taught to think about their on and others’ feelings. Unfortunately, families with a history of physical violence may also have trouble with using profanity.
One could say that profanity in The Sopranos household was synonymous with violence - and death. And it often doesn’t stop with using the f-word; it continues with calling people names, profane names, that demean the person, often the woman in the relationship, on the receiving end of the rant.
In SLP, Dolores, Pat Sr.’s wife, is the silent witness to profanity and violence by both Pat and Pat Sr. It’s the side of the story that we don’t see, how the woman views and feels about violence. Is Russell so naive to think that this does not occur, that profanity is not associated with violence in families and relationships, that it often takes maturity to express anger without using the f-word.
In his interview, he would like us to have empathy for those who suffer from mental illness, including his son, which makes one wonder whether Russell is more interested in mental health overall, or, like Harvey Weinstein, just marketing and selling a movie - and getting Oscars.
For many people in Hollywood, like the Weinsteins, adding sex and profanity is what creates an authentic marketability. Psychiatric drugs, made by giant drug companies were also added to the script. One of the drugs, Abilify, is one of the top drugs prescribed by psychiatric doctors in the nation.
It is produced by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., a Japanese conglomerate holding company with U.S. offices in Princeton, N.J., Redwood City, Cal., and Rockville, Md. Abilify is used to treat bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, among other symptoms.
Drug companies who produce drugs like Abilify are looking to offset the high cost of research and development for a drug like Abilify. Being placed positively in a movie life SLP surely helps. The Rockville office is a short distance from the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md. One would certainly hope that those using Abilify are able to depend less on profanity and violence as a means of coping with life, and that they can also find a playbook without the f-word.
© 2013 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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