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Mental Health Center

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'Silver Linings Playbook' OK on Mental Illness?

By Deborah Brauser
Medscape Medical News

Dec. 27, 2012 -- The movie Silver Linings Playbook has been garnering critical acclaim and numerous award nominations. But how accurately does it portray mental illness, a major theme in the film?

At least one psychiatrist says that although he enjoyed the film, he found that it was not an accurate depiction of mental illness.

"It was a really nice love story with a Frank Capra ending that was reminiscent of It's a Wonderful Life," says Michael Blumenfield, MD, president of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry.

"And it deals with topics not usually seen in a mainstream movie," says Blumenfield, who is also a psychiatrist in Woodland Hills, Calif., and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at New York Medical College, in Valhalla.

However, he says that it should be viewed as entertainment only.

Love Doesn't Conquer All

In the movie, actor Bradley Cooper plays a man with bipolar disorder who is being released from a psychiatric hospital. He soon connects emotionally with a quirky young woman, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has struggled with her own mental health issues, largely brought on by her husband's death.

In addition, Robert De Niro, who plays Cooper's father, is shown with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, including strong superstitions and pathologic gambling. Yet all of this is marketed as a feel-good romantic comedy -- complete with dancing.

It has hit big with critics and the public. In addition to Golden Globe nominations for best picture, best screenplay, and best actor and actress for Cooper and Lawrence, the actors (including De Niro) are also nominated for awards from the Screen Actors Guild. The film also received the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

However, not all reviews and online postings about the movie have been positive, especially with respect to the ending. The film ends on a very happy note, with a big kiss between the two main characters.

Some critics have expressed concern that the movie suggests that, in the end, all you need is love (without medication) to heal mental illness.

Richard Brody writes in The New Yorker that "the story challenges the medical 'establishment' and the efficacy of medical science in bringing about results. His mental health depends (and guess where this is going in the story) on his ability to control his behavior through force of will."

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