Local psychologists give 'thumbs up' to 'Silver Linings'

February 21, 2013 11:04:49 AM PST
Taking on a complex issue in a big Hollywood picture is risky business. It's always tough to please insiders on the issue.

But therapists surveyed by Action News generally applaud director David O.Russell's handling of bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and grief in his movie, "Silver Linings Playbook."

The movie has attracted a lot of attention in the Philadelphia area because part of it was shot here and because the lead actor Bradley Cooper, grew up in Jenkintown, Montgomery County.

However, Russell wanted a deeper impact, because his own son has bipolar disorder. And these professionals, who deal with real-life clients coping with the same problems that Cooper, Rober DeNiro, and Jennifer Lawrence's characters have, say the movie could help their cause.

Linda Abrams, Ph.D., director of the Council's Spring House office, says, "It was an excellent film, and I feel that it does a superb job at depicting bipolar disorder, OCD, as well as grief and loss."

Dr. Abrams says the box-office hit will, "offer hope to patients and family members, as well as educating people and decreasing the stigma that surrounds mental health issues."

She said 'Silver Linings Playbook' follows in the path of other movies which have depicted mental health issues well: 'A Beautiful Mind' - schizophrenia; 'Rainman' - autism, and 'Girl Interrupted' - borderline personality disorder.

Tami Sherman, LMFT, a staff therapist in Concordville, Delaware County, gushed, "I LOVED 'Silver Linings Playbook."

She credits the actors, saying, "They were careful to be accurate but loving" with their portrayals.

Sherman says such movies make it easier to talk about mental health issues with people in & out of the field.

Although Nancy DePaul, MSW, LMFT, and director of the Concordville office, hasn't yet seen 'Silver Linings Playbook,' some of her clients have. And those in relationships with bipolar partners say the movie, "helped them deepen their conversations." And the likeability of an actor like Cooper helped him portray the uncertainty of living with bipolar in as more believable way.

Therapist Margaret Shapiro, LCSW, in the Council's Wynnewood office, however, felt Cooper's depiction of bipolar was less convincing. She feels, 'The manic phases isn't usually as contained or circumscribed," as it seemed in the movie.

Still, she liked the movie overall, and, "thought the portrayal of OCD by Robert DeNiro was superb."

"The rituals people need, their hopes that the rituals will be magic, the reactions of family members, the lack of any malicious intent on his part - all of this was perfect in showing how a person with OCD acts and affects others around him," she told Action News.

Dr. Brendan Greer, a staff psychiatrist in the Doylestown and University City offices, thinks Hollywood in general oversimplifies the way mental health is shown on the screen.

"Too often, people with mental disorders are used to fill the place of either the bad guy, or the over-romanticized person who is heroically different," says Dr. Greer.

He isn't sure Hollywood will ever get it right on showing mental health problems.

"Such changes might not be as dramatically satisfying," he notes.