Mayo Clinic: Explaining the Hellmann’s Jar in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’


Nominated for several Academy Awards, Silver Linings Playbook has been critically acclaimed for its directing, story and performances. But what about its product placement?

The feel-good love story features some product placement as complex as its themes. For starters, there is the question of whether or not pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca had anything to do with drug mentions. (They did not.) There are Raisin Bran, Budweiser, and Apple products. (“Gimme’ an iPod. Who doesn’t have an iPod?”)

And then comes the conspicuous jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. [more]

Beginning in the film’s first scene, our protagonist Pat is standing in his room at a mental hospital seemingly addressing a large, empty Hellmann’s mayonnaise jar.

Later, Pat is working out with the Hellmann’s jar and seen leaving the facility cradling the Hellmann’s jar.

In scene after scene throughout the film, the Hellmann’s jar appears in the background. Curiously, in the final scene in the kitchen, the Hellmann’s is gone.

Was the Unilever-owned Hellmann’s a symbol of Nikki, the wife Pat obsessed over? Was it a sort of “Wilson,” lonely Tom Hanks’ inanimate (branded) companion from Castaway?

Silver Linings Playbook
is adopted adapted from a novel of the same name that mentions Budweiser and Raisin Bran, but never Hellmann’s. Nor does it mention mayonnaise. Even a jar? Nope.

The answer may be a little deflating to those looking for a deeper meaning. An examination of the film’s shooting script reveals that a “mayonnaise jar filled with water” was included in the first scene. The script later notes that “Pat works out: drinks water from his plastic mayo jar, does squats, sit ups, push ups…”  The brand name Hellmann’s is never noted.

In the original novel, Pat, an obsessive exerciser, mentions how he drinks four gallons of water a day to stay hydrated. The novel later explains that Pat does “endless shots of H2O from a shot glass for intensive hydration.” This explains why, in some scenes in the film, the Hellmann’s jar is accompanied by small paper shot cups.

While it mentions Budweiser and Raisin Bran and Bud and a few other brands, the book never goes into specifics about the water. Film being a visual medium, of course, the Hellmann’s addition was one of those little quirks of adaptation that, done right, goes completely unrecognized.

Product placement often gets a bad rap, one that it often deserves. But Silver Linings Playbook simply used brand names to add texture and detail to make for a richer film and characterization. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Brandchannel’s annual Product Placement Awards will be announced on Feb. 13.