|Photo from IMBD|
One of the things I really liked about Bradley Cooper's portrayal of Pat is that he actually was able to accurately show how the mood swings and outbursts of bipolar are not something we do on purpose. There is a scene where Pat gets upset in the doctors waiting room and throws over the magazine rack. He then realizes what he did, says he is sorry and they have a close up shot of his face where you can see the pain in his eyes and the realization that he scared people and was acting out. He was embarrassed, ashamed, and confused. At another point with his therapist Pat says he is sick of his illness and wants to control it. Don't we all feel this way? The movie is just a real representation of how mental illness is truly an illness and not some behavior we choose. I should add that director David O. Russell made the movie for his son who has bipolar disorder. His son also has a part in the movie as a teenager who wants to interview Pat for a school report on mental illness.
I also liked the part where Pat thinks Tiffany is crazier than he is. When I was watching the movie I was thinking "I don't act like Pat does. I am not that crazy." But when we got home I asked my husband "Do I look and act like that?" and he said "Of course. Why would you think you didn't?" I guess it is always hard to see our own crazy.
This is only a movie and so it can not get to all aspects of mental illness. The movie really captures one episode of breakdown, struggle, and treatment that ultimately becomes successful. There is what seems to be a turning point when Pat chooses to take his medication (which he was refusing to take before), as if just taking the medication and finding love with Tiffany was enough to cure him. This does not show the full spectrum of living with this illness and the fact that for many of us medication works for a little while, then doesn't, and even on med's there can be many relapses. While I like the love story, at the same time I always remember thinking, ever since I was a child, that if I found someone who loved me just the way I was that I would be cured. Well, I found the love of my life at sixteen years old, and have discovered that love alone can not conquer all. Many couples struggle with this issue and have to come to terms with treatment being long term. Even though love and care does help tremendously, it is not the ultimate silver lining. That is why I really like the musical Next to Normal because it shows the illness over a longer period of time and addresses the many issues with treatment. Of course, the ending of the musical is not as happy as the ending of this movie.
I do think the movie is very helpful for people who do not quite understand or who really need to emotionally experience mental illness. It helps combat the stigma against mental illness and shows people with mental illness as not just violent, scary, and hopeless. It shows how a community, a whole group of family and friends, really need to pull together to help someone with mental illness thrive.
The movie also shows that mental illness and the triggers for it are not only part of the patients brain, but profoundly affected by the environment around them. Pat's family is quirky with his father having some Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anger issues, and superstition that clearly does not help Pat's illness very much. But they work with everyone's quirks and accept each other and try to help each other. In a way all of their "issues" make them understand each other better and come closer. The movie is a great example of how everyone has issues and if we recognize them we can go a long way to figuring out how to live a happy life rather than families who deny that they have any dysfunction going on at all.
Overall, this is a really great movie and I encourage everyone to see it. It is a more human experience of mental illness rather than a completely sensationalized view of it, which the media so often likes to portray.