So you won the lottery. Don't blow it all on Prozac.
January 30, 2016 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in a genre that I'll call "fantasy self-help": stories about people who go to extraordinary, elaborate, expensive lengths in the pursuit of happiness/mental health. Examples include the movies Welcome to Me (mentally ill woman wins the lottery and spends millions making a vanity talk show) and Hotell (members of a support group check into a hotel to escape their lives and fully devote themselves to therapy). What are some other movies, shows or books like this? I think most of these will be dark comedies but maybe not.
posted by acidic to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Fight Club comes immediately to mind.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 5:30 PM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is it only fiction you're after? The Battersea Park Road To Enlightenment is a fairly entertaining read, by a woman who tried lots of different things to become happier: "a life-skills course in North London; a convent retreat in Oxford; T'ai chi in France; a massage in Bath--even the past as she explores her previous incarnations."

So they're not all totally out-there cray cray things, but the fact she tries so many in turn on this relentless pursuit of happiness makes me think you might enjoy it. I actually bought it thinking it was a novel and was a bit disconcerted to realise it wasn't, but I enjoyed it. She's pretty self-deprecating and funny, and aware of the ludicrousness of some of the things she does (though not all...each to their own).
posted by penguin pie at 5:34 PM on January 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Eat, Pray, Love

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:51 PM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Remainder by Tom McCarthy is about exactly this, both directly and in a meta sort of way.
posted by j.edwards at 6:03 PM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Safe by Todd Haynes -- Julianne Moore tries to self-treat an environmental illness of some kind, possibly psychosomatic.
posted by mahorn at 6:06 PM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

"How to Be Good," by Nick Hornby. The Angriest Man In Holloway suddenly decides that "a life of bile is not for him, [and] he becomes very good, very quickly. Within a matter of hours he is busy giving away the family's possessions, donating their food to the local vagrants and persuading the wary neighbours to give shelter to homeless teenagers."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:37 PM on January 30, 2016

My Name is Earl ?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:34 PM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Burn After Reading is basically about a woman's efforts to afford cosmetic surgery who comes into possession of a retired CIA analyst's memoir and other information.
posted by Green With You at 8:42 PM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Non-fiction: a writer trying to uncover the origin of San Francisco's artisanal toast trend traced it back to one woman with schizoaffective disorder. She dresses the same way every day, takes the same routes, and started a cafe, all so that people would recognise her and help her when she has psychotic episodes.
posted by escapepod at 10:27 PM on January 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

Seconding My Name is Earl.

You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things and then wonders why his life sucks? Well, that was me. Every time something good happened to me, something bad was always waiting around the corner: karma. That's when I realized that I had to change, so I made a list of everything bad I've ever done and one by one I'm gonna make up for all my mistakes. I'm just trying to be a better person. My name is Earl.

The main character literally wins the lottery, and then gets hit by a car seconds later. In the hospital, he sees Carson Daly describe karma, and then Earl decides to use his lottery winnings to right his wrongs and improve his karma.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:37 PM on January 30, 2016

She-Devil. Book and movie are both good, book is darker, movie is funnier but still darkish.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:41 PM on January 30, 2016

Being Erica: A comedy-drama in which an unhappy woman begins seeing an odd therapist...whose primary technique turns out to be sending her back in time to relive key points in her life.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:28 AM on January 31, 2016

Hector and the Search for Happiness. Hector travels all around the world trying to figure out why he's so depressed. He's a psychiatrist so he is specifically looking to fix his own mental health rather than just vaguely trying to be happy. Stars Simon Pegg so is funny, and is surprisingly sweet and thoughtful.
posted by shelleycat at 3:24 AM on January 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lars von Trier's The Idiots, one of the Dogme films of the late 90s, is a drama/comedy about a collective who chooses to live as developmentally impaired people in a quest for authenticity and self-expression. It's definitely in your category, just... unique.

And American Beauty, surely.

Regarding books, I'd say The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce fits the bill. (And I thought it was quite moving and delightful.)
posted by sively at 3:53 AM on January 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Non-fiction: a writer trying to uncover the origin of San Francisco's artisanal toast trend traced it back to one woman with schizoaffective disorder.

This story was also featured in this This American Life episode (Act Three), and it's amazing.
posted by sively at 4:07 AM on January 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Village
posted by mama casserole at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2016

The short story "Escape from Spiderhead" in George Saunders' collection 10th of December.
posted by Brittanie at 7:13 AM on January 31, 2016

I really enjoyed Harold Fry, too, and heartily second sively's recommendation. It's an excellent exploration of responses to grief and loss.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:56 PM on January 31, 2016

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