I am definitely one of those people who always thinks the book is better than the film and when I get even a hint that someone is going to watch a film based on a novel, I tend to urge, nay harass them to read the book first.
Silver Linings Playbook is a fantastic book and I would definitely urge to you read it before you see the film. However, and it pains me to say this, I have concluded that, possibly, that this is one of those rare cases where the film is equal to, perhaps even slightly better than, the book (I am not ready to commit to saying that the film is definitely much better than the book yet).
In the book we are introduced to Pat Peoples, a man who has been in a mental health facility for a number of years, as he returns to his parents’ house and attempts to get his life back on track. Pat believes that his life is a movie directed by God and that his happy ending/silver lining is guaranteed; if he gets in shape, sorts himself out, gets strong both physically and emotionally, his wife Nikki will return to him and all will be well with the world. Then he meets Tiffany, a woman who has also suffered from mental illness, enters a dance competition and ends up having to reassess what silver linings mean to him.
The brilliant thing about this novel is that it deals with mental health issues in a light-hearted way without shying away from the seriousness of them. The character of Pat is brilliantly nuanced; Quick does not gloss over his more difficult behaviour and describes a violent incident in his past, as well as describing the difficulties he faces on a day-to-day basis, creating a complex, conflicted, very human character. Tiffany is an equally interesting character who has dealt with the death of her husband and clinical depression. There is a strong sense of redemption and recovery throughout the book, which is seen in both Pat and Tiffany but also Pat’s parents and friends. Pat’s father, in particular, is a character who struggles to accept things and evidently has issues of his own.
It is interesting to consider which aspects of Pat’s personality are due to his mental illness and which are personality traits: even though Pat’s belief in silver linings is indicative and perhaps a product of his illness, could we all learn something from his way of thinking?
My only issues with the book are the frequent mention of American Football (I am British, so it made little sense to me!) and also the fact that Pat’s voice occasionally becomes a little too childlike – almost bordering on the voice in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – which doesn’t quite ring true in terms of the nature of his mental breakdown and subsequent illness.
In the film, Pat becomes Solitano as opposed to Peoples, and is played by Bradley Cooper. I was a little dubious of Cooper in the role as I’d only ever seen him in “The Hangover” previously, but he plays the part brilliantly. Cooper is probably the main reason, for me, that the film works so well: he plays the part with such depth and vulnerability, and I think completely eradicates my gripe with Pat’s voice – in the film, it is pitch-perfect. Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany and is also brilliant (I have to admit, being a Hunger Games geek, I was already a Lawrence fan). One thing that I really like about Tiffany is that she refuses to apologise for herself. It becomes apparent that Tiffany has dealt with some of her feelings by sleeping around and initially, Pat labels her a “slut”, but Tiffany replies (I can’t find the exact quote) that she likes all aspects of herself, that she’s okay with it, and can Pat say the same? I really like Tiffany’s refusal to feel ashamed of her behaviour (why should she?), and it does make Pat think about how he views the behaviour of others and, indeed, how he views himself.
Robert De Niro is also brilliant as Pat’s father, who becomes less hostile and more complex in the film, developing possible Eagles-centric OCD. De Niro is one of the other major reasons, for me, that makes the film possibly-better-than-the-book.
The direction and cinematography are also really interesting. The shots, the lighting, the pacing, the dialogue; all slightly quirky, slightly not what you’d expect.
In the end, the film ends up being primarily an uplifting, light-hearted comedy about mental illness with some romance, but also an inventive bit of cinema. It’s not often a film does both.
Can anyone else think of any other films that are better than the book?