Silver Linings Playbook: Is Positive Thinking Enough?

Warning: Plot Spoilers

          In the movie, Silver Linings Playbook, we follow the recovery process of Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper), after his stint in a mental health facility. After losing his job, his wife, and becoming a social pariah, Pat begins the quest to rebuild his life and marriage. Along the way, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow who is still broken over her husband’s passing. The movie tells a beautiful (if not painful) story of these two heart-broken individuals, sharing their pain and trying to find happiness again. One of the most fascinating elements of this movie is how it presents the protagonists’ attempts to find happiness.

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The movie creates a story in which the audience wonders how someone can find happiness in a broken life. Both of the main characters are a clear example of broken life, but the focus of this essay is on Pat’s attempt to find happiness. Pat’s philosophy was pure positive thinking, believing that things will work out against the odds, and focusing on the “silver lining developments.” As the title of the movie suggests, Pat believes that focusing on the silver linings is the best strategy for finding happiness. Many characters in the movie comment on the beauty of his positive thinking, seeming to validate Pat’s ideas. However, the plot of the movie may suggest a deeper truth.

Throughout the movie, Pat is presented as an optimistic, but ultimately blinded character. His wife wants nothing to do with him, he is under constant watch by medical and law enforcement agents who are afraid he is seconds away from a breakdown, and he is making little to no progress at getting back his old life. While he maintains his positive thinking throughout the downward spiral of this movie, this blind optimism seems impotent at improving his life.silverlinings7

What provides the way to redemption for Pat, in the end, is his relationship with Tiffany. Through their time together and interaction, Pat is able to go beyond a blind optimism, towards a real happiness in his present life. The ending of the movie, leaves the audience with an optimistic hope for Pat and Tiffany’s future. This hope, however is not founded on a philosophy of positive thinking, but in the reality of the redemptive nature of their relationship.silver-linings-playbook-1

In this movie, the redemptive relationship is presented in a romantic sense. However, this should not leave the audience thinking that they need this form of romantic love to find happiness. Instead, this movie should make the audience realize that there is a deep need for relationship in humanity which is deeply associated to happiness. The source of this desire is a point of discussion (and as a Christian I would propose humanity was made for relationship with God), but there is something deep within humanity that would strongly validate the presence of this desire.

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