Silver Linings Playbook: For a Movie That Cares so Much About Endings . . .

by | Jun 5, 2013 | Catholic Mom Movie Review | 23 comments

Ugh.  I really really really did not like this movie.  And if you haven’t seen it, I do not recommend that you do.  But if you like movies with nudity and language and disturbing implied violence and described aberrant sexual behavior and onscreen sexual activity and the breakdown not only of one man’s marriage but of his deeply held belief in the sanctity of marriage itself, then you probably shouldn’t keep reading, because there are going to be spoilers.

But hey, the acting is really good.

In my favorite part of the movie, the main character throws his copy of A Farewell to Arms out the window, then wakes his parents up in the wee hours to rant about how terrible the ending of that book is.  And while I absolutely agree with him that that book’s ending is bleak in the extreme, I would argue that the ending to this movie is every bit as dark as A Farewell to Arms’. The dangerous thing is that it’s easy to recognize the unhappy ending of the book, but the movie would have you believe that IT has a happy ending.  It doesn’t.

We are meant to celebrate the fact that the main character has finally gotten over his silly notion of wanting to better himself and reconcile with his wife, the thing that has motivated his positive attitude throughout the movie.  He has guarded his chastity, literally running away from the occasion of sin in two instances that I found very charming.  

But in the end we learn that what he really had was just a hang-up, and we get to see how he overcomes his devotion to his marriage in favor of liberating himself and hooking up with a woman whose mental health issues surpass even his own.  The big happy ending is the two of them canoodling in an easy chair and we see that both of them have shaken off the past and taken off their wedding rings.  Hers from her deceased husband, his from his very much still alive and still married to him wife.  Hooray!  And they lived happily ever after.  That’s probably going to work out swimmingly.  

No sense getting any violence or anger issues or sexual acting out or resistance to taking court-ordered medications sorted out.  No, the important thing is to jump right in to a new and exciting relationship.  

And, really, it could have gone either way right up to when it went the wrong way.  Such a bummer.

I was really disappointed in this movie.  But more so because I went into it with a big misconception.  

When it came out in the theaters I wasn’t tempted at all to see it, I’m not sure I even noticed its existence.  But then it popped up on a couple of blogs I like and I thought:  Oh! People who write Catholic blogs like this movie.  *I* also write a Catholic blog.  Therefore I will probably like it since other people who write Catholic blogs must have the exact same standards I do for enjoying and recommending movies. 

But, as it turns out I was making a you-know-what out of U and ME.

So, for future reference, the following is my policy for recommending movies on MY Catholic blog, but it probably doesn’t apply to other people’s Catholic blogs. . . .

I will watch and recommend movies with sex and violence and nudity and language, but only if I think that the movie’s message is worth exposing yourself to those things.  And I’ll always warn you that they’re in there.

I will occasionally recommend movies that don’t have a great message but also don’t have objectionable content onscreen.  For instance, I have enjoyed many of the recent spate of comic book-based movies.  They may not conform to the magisterium, but they’re just fluff anyway.

I try never to watch and would never recommend a movie that purports to be important and challenging, but doesn’t get it mostly right on the issues.

And while I much prefer to watch a movie not knowing anything about the plot (as was the case with Silver Linings Playbook) I realize now that I just can’t afford to take other people’s word for stuff and not do the research myself.  Nap time Doctor Who on Netflix notwithstanding, I watch almost no television now, and the husband and I only rarely get a chance to watch movies.  So I want to make sure that what I am going to watch is worth the time it will take to do it.  This movie did not fit the bill.

But . . . just in case you had plans to watch this very movie for this weekend and are now grumbling about how I’ve ruined date night . . . check back on Friday for seven movies I love for grownups.

But until then, you can check out this post, which has some movies I liked (and some I didn’t).



  1. Colleen

    I didn't like the movie either. At all. And I too had watched it because some Catholic blogs had recommended it since it had no sex scenes (but it did have the shower scene flashback).

    • Kendra Tierney

      I think I saw the same comment you did about it not having a sex scene. But I can't imagine how to categorize what we see in the shower (multiple times) as other than a sex scene. For me, the message would have had to be pretty terrific to make that and Tiffany's descriptions of her exploits worth it to me.

  2. EC

    I didn't like it either. The whole time I kept thinking, "Who comes up with a screenplay like this?" and how do they get these top actors to do it? My husband liked it okay because it was something different than the predictable movie stuff, but it was just too weird for me.

  3. Emily

    Do you read Sister Helena Burns' movie reviews? She is a media nun and she loved this movie!!!

  4. Susan H.

    SAME story here….yes, I drank the kool-aid too, thanks to the suggestion of Catholic bloggers. After the movie was over and I threw my shoe at the screen, I wondered how in the world this movie ever garnered oscar nominations with the likes of Lincoln and others. As human nature longs for authentic relationality (even if it's fraught with problems), there are no noteworthy examples to satisfy that longing in this film. Give me Hemmingway any day.

  5. Mandi

    Oh, bummer. I was looking forward to watching it for much the same reason you did – recommended by Catholics. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie but I suppose I won't be wasting my time with this one now. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Anonymous

      She's wrong. And you should watch it. It's a great film.

  6. Jeannie

    I had not heard of this movie until now. Thanks for the warning.
    As an aside I'm totally with you on Greydanus. I have always checked before setting precious time aside for a movie. Our time is so limited I try not to waste it on movies that aren't worth it.

  7. Diana

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, Kendra. It made me think. I personally enjoyed Silver Lining Playbook. Maybe it was my psychology background but I loved the exchanges between the two main characters. They were complex characters and very flawed (not to mention one being mentally ill). I thought the actors portrayed their characters very well. And, I think that although he didn't go back to his wife in the end (which by the way would have been a nice ending to see), I believe it did show their personal progress. In the end, they let go of some of their insecurities, hang-ups, ect. and decided to be happy and ok with themselves. This is a positive message. Now, although I enjoyed it I don't know if I would recommend it to say my parish priest or the like. ( unless they were interested in how bipolar disorder manifests itself) Probably not. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. I will have to pray about that one. 🙂 -Diana A.

  8. Anonymous

    Oh and I see you delete comments that you don't agree with. Do you want to explain why you do this for the rest of your readers here? Or do you just want to delete this?

    • Kendra Tierney


      You are most welcome to disagree with me, but I delete name-calling comments since I find that they create an unpleasant atmosphere on the blog.

      (I also assign people names if they don't leave one.)

      I would have emailed you about it, but you haven't commented in a way that allows for that.

      If you can reword your comment I'd be happy to have you be a part of the discussion.


    • Anonymous

      How's this:

      It's fine if you dislike Silver Linings Playbook, but why don't you try to critique for actual cinematic reasons (the acting, structure, narrative problems, cinematography, etc.). Not it's moral code. By discouraging this movie, you're pretending that people don't suffer from real life problems like this and can't work them out in ways that you don't think are appropriate because they're not adhering to Catholic guidelines? It's not a Catholic movie! It's just a movie and a damn good one.

      You also seem to have not watched the movie very well:

      1) Pat does start taking his medication after his altercation with mother and father
      2) His anger issues are shown to be helped by taking his medication and by being around Tiffany (as shown in the scene after the diner sequence where My Cherie Amour starts playing and she calms him down)
      3) Tiffany was acting out sexually because her husband died and she wanted to feel loved again. She even indicated she hadn't felt particularly loved while he was alive (hence him buying the Victoria Secret outfit). And I think it's safe to say that she won't be sexually acting out now that she's in love with Pat
      4) If you want to assume anything about their future, you could assume that they'd both continue attending therapy regularly, especially since Pat had come to good terms with it.
      5) Him making himself better for his wife was not supposed to be a good thing. It was supposed to represent a delusion he was holding onto because his wife wasn't good for him (seeing as she acted out by cheating on him) and he wasn't good for her. Did him wanting to a better person for her lead to some good things? Yes. But the point is that he should've wanted to be that person outside of wanting to be with her. He needed to work at this relationship with his father and be more selfless in helping other people like his friend and Tiffany.

      I'm sorry Silver Linings Playbook doesn't live up to whatever Catholic code of marriage you think movies and characters should adhere to, but it didn't have to. It's a movie by David O Russell. Not Kirk Cameron.

    • Kendra Tierney

      This blog is called Catholic All Year. It's a Catholic blog. If people want real cinematic critiques, I'm pretty sure there are a few places they'll stop on the web before they come here.

      The reason I review movies on my blog is because as a mother of many children, my time is very scarce and I really dislike wasting it on movies that I don't find edifying. I care a lot about the message of a movie and I disagreed fundamentally with the worldview of this movie.

      So, I took to my Catholic blog to share that, as a Catholic, I didn't much care for it.

      You are welcome to disagree (and obviously LOTS of people really like this movie) but I'm doubting you're the target audience of this blog. And I think it's okay for us to have our corner of the internet too.

    • Anonymous

      But seriously, In Bruges is a great film about Catholicism. Check it out.

    • Kendra Tierney

      You're a real charmer. Fortunately for me, I saw the name of the link you sent me before I watched it.

      Anyway, from the summaries and review I looked at, my guess is that I would agree with the message of the movie, but I'm not sure I'd appreciate the level of violence. Although I did like Skyfall, so you never know.

      Also, if we're being honest, you have proven yourself to not really have my best interests at heart, so I'm thinking it would be unwise to take a lot of recommendations from you.

  9. Kendra Tierney


    I'm sorry you're so troubled by my review. I've been emailing you in response to your comments, but I just realized that your account isn't linked, you won't have received them.

    I welcome comments that disagree with me, but I don't welcome name-calling comments or those that speculate on what I "really" meant or think.

    If you're willing to rephrase your comment without name-calling or speculating I would be happy to have it here. But if you're looking for a blog-comment-shout-off this isn't the place.


  10. Anonymous

    Thanks for this. It is nice to see that someone else felt the same way about it. Yeah, the whole point of a watching/making a movie is not only how its message is told, but what the message is.

    I liked the same scene you did, with him ranting about the book. It was a bummer how they broke him down.

    The hot thrill nowadays seems to be to take a character with beliefs/principles, and then show how sexuality can get *fix* them from all that. Why don't they go after people who don't have principles in the first place, and leave idealists alone? Extremely depressing.

  11. Jamie Jo

    Oh, gosh, why are mean people always anonymous?

    I also love to write about movies we've watched. I think we like different kinds of movies though, because I actually liked this one!

    I didn't like the breakdown of marriage and didn't like it for the things you mentioned. I did, however like it for the portrayal of mental illness, which is real and people need to know that.

    I wrote about it here:

    Sometimes the movies are few and far between, and it's slim pickin's for good ones, isn't it?

  12. Jamie Jo

    Hahah, I just read your bottom part here about anonymous comments!! I did the same many months ago and am much happier.

    Oops and I see I linked something…is that bad? You can delete if you want. Sorry.

  13. Christie R

    I'm very curious to watch this after the seeming divide in the Catholic blogosphere about this movie, but I have a feeling it's going to be as divisive as the Flannery O'Connor debate. I wonder if there's not something objective per se (certainly object moments and instances and actions, but speaking as a whole) that makes some Catholics like it and others not . . . but more of a sense of artistry that speaks to some and not others.

    For example (and I haven't seen it, so I'm only going on blog conversation), while the main character's ultimate abandonment of his marriage vows aren't praiseworthy, staying in an abusive and or/toxic relationship–even with one's spouse–isn't being true to one's God-given dignity. One may not be granted an annulment when one's spouse abuses him or her, but that person needn't stay in the situation, especially when there are children involved, but be called to live a single married life.


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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