If Bipolar Disorder Has Ever Made You Feel Weird, This Movie Is For You
The new Netflix animated feature “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” — which came out just four days ago – is an amazingly clever and totally hilarious romp of a film that is scorching hot right now, already the most-watched movie of the moment on the streaming service. The film is wholeheartedly unique, daring to sing the praises of us folks who are different.
We who live with mental health conditions often can feel different from the rest of society. I know I do. Growing up punk, I was a bit of an outcast. But it was punk rock that saved me from the vicious bullying I experienced in the halls and walls of my Catholic high school. And it is punk values and ethics that have carried me through adulthood. Add bipolar disorder to the mix, and I definitely feel like an odd bird. But I think that’s good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Spoiler alert – major plot details ahead…
The “Mitchells vs. The Machines” protagonist– Katie Mitchell (comedian Abbi Jacobson)– is a teenage misfit who is heard blasting punk rock in her bedroom early in the movie. Katie makes goofy films on YouTube and her family– especially her dad– doesn’t really understand her.
The Mitchells are more of a quirky family compared to their next-door neighbors, who project themselves on social media as the perfect family, documenting their perfect lives on Instagram.
As Katie heads off to college, enrolling in film school, her dad Rick, voiced by Danny McBride (“Despicable Me,” “The Angry Birds Movie”) decides to take the family including Katie’s little brother and their dog as well as Katie’s mother Linda (Maya Rudolph of “SNL” fame) on a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles to drop her off at film school. As the family is en route, the world is invaded by robots that are hell bent on taking over the globe. Katie and her family set out to destroy the motherchip in a man vs. technology plot to save the world.
Throughout their mission, Katie becomes the weirdo superhero who saves the day.
For the adults, the film also ponders the question of our online selves giving away the store: compromising our personal data and email addresses to the corporate fat cats, a sentiment that will fly over the heads of kids, but resonate with their parents.
The movie is dripping with funny moments for the kids as well as inside-baseball subtleties that any adult will find comical. (Rick: “[This place] is like a Journey album cover!”)
Do they save the world? Well there is a flash forward in which we see Katie in her college dorm with a new girlfriend. It’s a very subtle LGBTQ moment at the end of the film when Katie’s mom asks her if her new girlfriend will be coming home for Thanksgiving. Blink and you’ll miss it. It’s very incidental, but it’s there, somewhat groundbreaking for a flick for kids.
“I’ve always felt a little different from everyone else,” Katie narrates at one point in the film. “So I did what any outsider would do. I made weird art.”
I make weird art too. I wrote a weird memoir The Bipolar Addict that is testament to my geek status.
In it, I talk about my major manic episode in 2008, I did a lot of weird things. Tipping the shoe-shine guy $50 was just the tip of the iceberg. I stayed up all night every night drinking and updating my Facebook status every five minutes and writing strange quips and dedicating music videos on everyone’s Facebook walls.
I started building an esoteric, glorified would-be blog and colorful website from scratch. It even had its own soundtrack. When I pitched the idea to my boss at MTV News in New York as a potential blog I would singlehandedly write, I was met with a puzzled reaction.
Everyone knew I was weird, especially because of my behavior on Facebook. And I definitely felt ashamed to be weird at that time. I don’t feel that way anymore. When I came down from that manic episode, I did a lot of damage control deleting statuses and tweets. I felt ashamed. But all of that is in the past. I’m happy to be me. I embrace the weird.
And what I do know is that there are 5.7 million of us bipolar Americans. The community and camaraderie I’ve gained here ever since I started writing for The Mighty makes me feel cool. I’m one of a kind, but there are many others like me. We’re weird.
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a film for people like me. It’s a movie for the freaks and the geeks. It’s for the drama nerds and the AV club dorks. For the dark-room dwellers and still-life painters. The creators. The kids who hate the jocks and cheerleaders because they belittle them. And it’s undeniably imaginative and creative.
If you’ve ever felt like a misfit, like you’ve been left out, ostracized, or weird, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is the geek-power movie you must see. Weird is good. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Lead image via YouTube