Sometimes the film version of a book is better than its print counterpart. Such is the case with Matthew Quick’s novel Silver Lining’s Playbook. But how can that be? Bear with me. The main character Pat, a former history teacher in his mid-thirties, moves back home after spending a few years in a psychiatric hospital for treatment of his bipolar disorder. He occupies his time with a self-improvement plan which involves working-out a lot and reading classic works of literature which may help put him back the good graces of his ex-wife English teacher.
Enter Tiffany, the widowed wife of a police officer and sister to Pat’s best friend. She’s dealt with her grief by sleeping around and learning how to dance. She convinces Pat to enter a dance contest with her, and from there a somewhat antagonistic friendship grows. Both characters share a variety of mental scars. They seem made for each other, but Pat continues to obsess about getting back with his wife.
Running through Silver Lining’s Playbook is a love of Eagles’ football, a love that practically borders on obsession. This for me, is where the book pales in comparison to the movie. The book never fully pulls all of the plot threads together, not that loose ends in a book are necessarily bad. It’s just that David O’Russell’s screenplay takes a promising book and turns it into the story it was meant to be. A story with fully-drawn major and minor characters who pull at the viewer’s heartstrings. The book, while decent, simply pales in comparison.
The movie succeeds on a higher-level of storytelling as compared to the book because Pat and Tiffany competing and placing in a dance competition takes place in conjunction with a bet on the outcome of an Eagles’ game. The father, and all of the men in the book just really like football, but in the movie Pat’s dad is portrayed as an obsessive compulsive who is also a bookie. Such touches help shed more light on why Pat is the way he is.
Another area where the film succeeds over the book involves overall character interaction. Tiffany’s character, as portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie shows much more depth. In the book, she and Pat talk a lot less. Plus, the latter half of the book contains the transcripts of numerous letters that appear in italicized print. I always tend to zone-out when letters try to carry the action of the story.
The most troublesome aspect of the novel involved the narrator’s childlike voice. As someone who grew up with a bipolar mother (read my guest post When Your Mother is Crazy for more info), I found the simplicity Matthew Quick gave to Pat’s thought processes a bit unbelievable.
Indeed, the most moving scene of the movie occurs when Pat chucks Ernest’s Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms out his upstairs bedroom window. That overreaction to the book’s ending causes him to barge in on his sleeping parents to express his displeasure. An intense argument results which accurately portrays mania. The book never even comes close to the power of that scene that took me back to witnessing similar outbursts from my mother when I was younger. My advice is to skip the book, and watch and re-watch the movie version of Silver Linings Playbook.
You can connect with Matthew Quick on his author website.
What movies have you seen that were better than their book counterpart?
For more insight, read my Book Review Criteria. Bipolar Photo credit: L.G.Mills / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.
I have not read the book nor seen the movie. In fact this is the first time I have seen the trailer. Now I want to see it.
I have read all the books and seen all the movies in the Twilight series. The movies are SO much better than the books on so many levels. I can think of more, but you get the idea.
Cheryl, Silver Linings just came out on video. You should definitely rent it. It’s just an all-around good movie.
I saw the trailer for this not too long ago. It does look to be an interesting movie. The section of a book store that this falls into is one I don’t go into. I didn’t even know there was a book for it.
Jon, and what section of the book store would that be? 😉 I fear we may never cross paths if we ever end up in the same book store, but I still respect you as a writer anyway. I keep trying to venture down other aisles and eshelves…
Thanks for the review. Sounds like I’ll be skipping the book…besides, I’ve been crushing on Bradley Cooper since I first saw him on Alias. 🙂
Denise, I am most definitely a Bradley Cooper fan as well. Jennifer Lawrence is great in this movie as well, but I loved her even more in Winter’s Bone. Now that’s a movie that matches its book almost to a tee.
I had heard very good things about this movie. I will confess I was not aware it was a book. That said, based on what you said, I think I’ll pass on the book and go straight to the movie… LOL.
Susan, all the good things you’ve heard about Silver Linings Playbook are most definitely true! You should rent it this coming weekend 😉
I loved Silver Linings Playbook – the acting was superb. Now I want to read the book, just to compare. It’s interesting that you found the movie better than the book – that doesn’t usually happen! I’m also reading Life of Pi because the movie resonated so strongly with me. Not sure which I prefer … yet!
Krystyna, I’ve had Life of Pion my reading list for quite some time now. I enjoyed the movie, especially its visual impact, but I’ll wager that the book delivers an overall more satisfying experience. You’ll have to let me know what you think once you finish it.
I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but you have certainly given the movie a great pitch. Better than the studio as I don’t remember it’s release. Dealing with the subject of mental illness is always challenging. It’s easy to get preoccupied with the illness and lose sight of the person. If the people shine through and it sounds like they do, should be a good flick. 🙂
Debra, Silver Linings did have a fairly small release, but it gradually gained steam, especially once it garnered so manh Oscar nominations. Having grown up with a bipolar mother, I’d say the movie does a fantastic job of capturing not only how it feels to deal with such an illness from the afflicted’s perspective, but also how it feels from the family and friends involved.
I have to say, that I read the book and was in love with it.I am bipolar and I found the descriptions very real. The movie for me, was just okay. Things were changed that I didn’t feel should be changed, and I thought his breakdown was revealed too soon. I liked the movie, just didn’t love it like I did the book.Loved the insight of your blog though.
Kathy, isn’t it amazing how readers and movie-goers each perceive the impact of stories so differently? That’s one of the things I most love about literature. Thanks for stopping by.