She almost runs into him as she cuts him off, then chases him down the street.
“How do you know when I run?”
“I wanted to clarify something. I just want us to be friends.”
He keeps running.
“Did you hear what I said? Why are you giving me such a hard time?”
“No, I’m not giving you a hard time.”
“I don’t know how to act with you when you do this shit.”
After a few more strides, he finally stops. On the building in front, it says ‘Llanerch’ in bright, red letters. He turns around.
“You wanna have dinner at this diner?”
The first time I watched Silver Linings Playbook, I was alone in my room. The second time was yesterday. Once again, it was just me, myself, and I.
In the five years between now and then, a lot’s changed. I’m about to finish my second degree, I make my own money, and I’ve finally upgraded the room to an apartment, even though it took moving eight times. The fact that I’m single is one of the few things that’s stayed the same.
Not that I didn’t have any relationships. There were some short ones, some long ones, and a great deal more that never really left the ground. It’s just that after this part of the journey, I’ve landed back in a familiar place. And yet, I’ve come a long way.
When I first saw one of 2012’s biggest surprise hit films, I was instantly swept away. But I couldn’t have told you why. Now I know. By taking us through the love story of two people with mental problems, Silver Linings Playbook lets us view the world through the eyes of the ideal lovers we all aspire to be.
More so, it shows us the price we’d have to pay: the world thinks we’re insane.
The Delusional Optimist
Pat Solitano is the embodiment of the American Dream. He’s sharp, he’s honest, he’s upbeat. He’s a perpetual optimist and he always has a plan. Striving ever higher, even his personal motto is engraved on the official New York coat of arms: Excelsior!
Sadly, Pat suffers from bipolar disorder. In a fit of violent temper, he beat his cheating wife’s affair half to death. And so he returns from his stint at a mental hospital with a massive stigma: society has branded him insane. But Pat isn’t swayed. Neither this, nor his wife’s restraining order are going to keep him from making things right. From getting the love he deserves.
We indulge in all these delusions about what we’re gonna do, about who we’re gonna be. How we’re going to be united with people we barely know and how our lives will play out. I know I sure did. I would fantasize about life with a girl I had a crush on and then go to bed high on that feeling. Even though most of the time, I never actually did anything.
The one thing Pat’s got going over most of us is that the world already knows he’s out of his mind. He’s free to say what he wants, to live his crazy plans, and to call out everyone else on their own. Because he’s the purest form of the delusional, optimist lover we’ve ever seen.
Until he meets Tiffany.
The Broken Realist
Tiffany Maxwell is a more grown up version of Pat, who’s hopelessly lost in his dream. Her bubble popped just as suddenly, but in a more definite way. After her husband died, she became depressed and went on a hookup spree. She was fired and force-medicated, so now people believe she’s deranged.
Having been broken ten ways to Sunday, Tiffany is so sick of love, she doesn’t even want to try. Zero expectations. That’s why the second Pat meets her, his optimism cracks. From that moment on, he clings to his plan like a tempted child. Because he too feels the chemistry, but her realism pulls his focus away.
We learn the same, hard-earned lessons. Maybe not as rapidly, but also through countless mistakes. And sometimes, we get so frustrated that we too resign. That’s it, I’m out, no more dating, I’m sick of this game. But at least, because of her stained reputation, Tiffany is also free. If you have no expectations, there’s no one you need to please.
She’s the broken realist that’d rather live with nothing than die for a lost cause. Despite her capitulation, Tiffany knows true love is built, not found. So while Pat keeps talking about a silver lining that’s not there, she can see he’s hers.
That’s why she starts literally chasing him down the street.
The Fine Line Between Genius and Madness
Watching these two crazies is marvelous, because their social outcast status allows them to do and say everything we’re afraid to let ourselves be.
We’d love to swear whenever we feel like it, live our sexuality, call others on their bullshit, ignore people’s opinions and bluntly, relentlessly demand what we want. But we don’t. Because what would our friends and families say?
If even just for a few brief moments, Silver Linings Playbook allows us to escape. But that’s not what makes the movie so great. Its message is bigger than that. Occasionally, the two even allude to it. Like when Tiffany says that they’re “not liars, like they are.” Or when Pat suggests that “maybe we know something that you guys don’t know, okay?”
As it turns out, they do.
To top the madness off, Pat and Tiffany briefly switch roles near the end of the film. Hope carries the broken realist away, while reality finally punches Pat in his face. The key scene, however, is not what you’d expect it to be.
After achieving a self-imposed, somewhat arbitrary score at a competition, the whole Solitano family celebrates. It’s when the puzzled looks of observers extend beyond our two heroes that we’re given a chance to understand:
There’s Pat’s friend from the hospital, who’s obsessed with his hair and constantly tries to escape. His OCD, choleric, superstitious, illegally bookmaking dad. The neighbor suffocating in a needless, crushing debt spiral. His wife, Tiffany’s consumerist sister. Even Pat’s mom, his straight-A brother and his therapist. The list goes on and on.
I fell in love with this movie not because of who it showed me I could be, but because it gave me the comfort that, in a world where everyone’s an idiot, staying true to yourself isn’t such a big deal. Life itself is mental. It is an absolutely crazy experience that no one survives anyway. Silver Linings Playbook reminds us that regret, not being different, is what’s insane.
We must love with all our heart and live life to the fullest. Because there are no normal people. Just those, who are crazy in similar ways. That’s the big lesson. One everyone — the characters, the audience, even the film’s creators — can take away. It’s also why in the end, it’s Pat’s turn to chase Tiffany.
Like him, the only thing I’m sorry about is that it took me so long to catch up.