“Life is hard, and children have to be told how hard life can be…So they will be sympathetic to others. So they will understand that some people have it harder than they do and that a trip through this world can be a wildly different experience, depending on what chemicals are raging through one’s mind.” – Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook
The Silver Linings Playbook as a movie was a huge hit. It was nominated for the top five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay), and Jennifer Lawrence won the oscar for her performance as Tiffany. Although I’m not usually a fan of the rom-com genre, I appreciated the movie’s banter and its tender look at the quirks of mental health. And who could not love that incredible dance at the end? Epic. I was pleasantly surprised with the whole thing – the movie oozed charm. If you haven’t seen it, check it out on your preferred media subscription program. (I was going to say check it out on iTunes, and then I added in Netflix, and then I thought about On Demand options and people who prefer to download things or rent them at Redbox, and I realized we’ve seriously expanded since the days of everyone renting a video at Blockbuster.)
After listening to the novel the movie is based on, I understand why other readers at Audible.com sing its praises from the mountaintops. The story’s protagonist and narrator, Pat, gains a lot of his charm through dry descriptions of his erratic behavior. The ease with which Pat explains his odd, compulsive actions and his simplistic outlook on life results in a very amusing read. I am not a laugh out loud person, which makes watching comedies slightly uncomfortable for me, but I did spontaneously laugh out loud a few times while listening to The Silver Linings Playbook.
The novel is Pat’s tale – he stands out from a crowd of slightly flat supporting characters. In the movie, the character of Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) has been fleshed out and amped up to meet Pat (Bradley Cooper) at his level of charm. Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany steals the show in the film, and in the book Tiffany doesn’t have a few of her most memorable scenes.
Another standout feature of the book was its portrayal of the joy of rituals surrounding Pat’s beloved football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. I am not a sports fan and I did just do a quick Google search to confirm that the Eagles are, in fact, a football team; however, this book made me understand and appreciate the sheer pleasure of rooting for a team with all your closest friends, yelling chants and getting hyped.
Maybe predictable for the Hollywood version of any story, the movie feels a lot lighter than the book. Extra plot arcs are created to make the movie goer care a bit more. Although laden with humor, the subject matter here is at its core bleak – mental illness, family dysfunction, loss. The jokes based on Pat’s narration, clever and fresh at the beginning of the novel, felt stale by its end.
Movies that are better than the book they are based on are rare birds – it takes a vivid, complicated movie to master a novel’s plot. Like Fight Club before it, I believe The Silver Linings Playbook has pulled off this feat. The book is charming and witty, but the movie reaches a higher level of creativity.
Matthew Quick has written several books since The Silver Linings Playbook and they all sound worthy of a read.