Hello Fellow Fathomers! Today in The Locker I combine a book review with a movie review for The Silver Linings Playbook. As soon as the movie released last fall in the theater, I just had to go see it. (and I see few movies in the theater)
Matthew Quick’s excellent, heartfelt novel provided the start of a screenplay with substance. From the opening scene to the end, David O. Russell captured my imagination and I found myself cheering that he did not try to “fix” anyone- instead, he revealed to the audience how life actually is for many people living with various degrees of mental illness. For 122 minutes, we see a glimpse into the highs and lows that sometimes cycle for people several times within a given day.
I identified with the mother, Dolores, played so brilliantly by Jacki Weaver- trying to hold her family together while standing firm to her own principles. Walking the tightrope by offering her crabbie snacks and homemades on game day and encouraging positive behavior by setting boundaries, she epitomizes a mother’s love for Pat working so hard to find his Silver Lining. With two young adult sons of my own, I understand the pain of seeing them suffer and also the anger when they make ridiculous or damaging choices.
I also identified with the father, Pat Sr, played intensely by Robert DeNiro. Unwilling to accept his own quirks as possible mental illness, he instead calls the oddities his good luck charms and ways to insure success, especially when it comes to his beloved Philadelphia Eagles football team. He realizes toward the end of the movie how his OCD personality may have shaped some of Pat Jr’s behavior, and that felt really good to see his “grown man” tears shed as a father trying to connect with his son in mutual understanding.
I will admit that before this movie, I really didn’t care much for Bradley Cooper. Although a stunning specimen of a man, his sharp blue eyes projected an arrogance to me further driven home by the characters he played. But, in this movie, it is clearly evident why he received the Oscar nomination for Best Actor (which he really should have won, in my own honest opinion). The character of Pat, Jr. fast talking, rapid cycling, intensely determined and looking for that Silver Lining-that ending of happiness in the movie of his life he watched unfold on a daily basis was dazzling. It makes me wonder if Bradley may, in fact, have an element of Bi-Polar disorder in his personality. If not, he surely must have grown up around someone who did, because he nailed the part.
Jennifer Lawrence’s turn as Tiffany awed me. From her expressions to her verbal intensity, she captured a woman teetering on the brink of a depressive edge, yet wanting desperately to be accepted and loved. So desperate, she was willing to lie to the man she loved at first sight in an attempt to pull him close to her. In the scene where she casually spews sports scores and facts before casually popping off the top of a Budweiser, she secured both feminine determination and fitting in as one of the guys to prove her point and left the room speechless. Bravo.
Every actor involved in this film demonstrated charisma and delivered top notch performances, Chris Tucker, funny and fast-witted as Danny and Anupam Kher as Dr. Cliff Patel attempting to pull Pat into reality and encouraging him to develop a strategy- all while bonding as a fellow Eagles fan.
David O. Russell’s adaptation fit perfectly for the big screen at just the right length and development. I enjoyed his changes to the Stevie Wonder songs from both Songbird by Kenny G and Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler in the novel. The musical changes captured more of what the scene required, even if slightly old school tunes. The rest of the soundtrack is just as appropriate in establishing a background for what the characters are going through at any particular time.
Mr. Russell tweaked a deep, emotional novel into something suitable for film. The intricacies in the novel would not have adapted straight to a movie and hold the same interest—it would have been too long and confusing. In addition, the chemistry between the actors involved- especially Bradley and Jennifer- required more fleshing out for the viewing audience. The relationship between Pat Sr. and Pat Jr. needed more substance because, well, it’s Robert DeNiro, for Pete’s sake…he deserves more from a role and Mr. Russell provided it.
Which is why, in this rare instance, I believe the film and the novel marry perfectly. I saw the movie first, then read the novel and the pairing left me with a satisfied feeling.
Matthew Quick’s fast paced novel about a man suffering some type of mental illness or breakdown is different in several ways than the screenplay. Minor changes such as Pat’s surname change from Peoples to Solitano, song differences, and the supporting character roles provide little impact between the screen and novel. However, major changes abound, such as Pat losing 4 years of his memory in the novel rather than 8 months in the movie, the fact that Pat’s mental condition is never really defined in the novel, the way Tiffany works out the letters, and the gambling plot in the movie. There are several more; however, none detracted me from either medium to enjoy this story.
Written in first person, Mr. Quick wrote Pat’s verbiage in an almost frantic/determined tone, and I felt his rapid fire energy. Bradley Cooper handily captured Matthew’s intention of this man, Pat, valiantly fighting for his life back, but in a better form, a life with a Silver Lining.
So, Fellow Fathomers, if you’ve not enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook the movie or The Silver Linings Playbook, the novel, I encourage you to do both. The bittersweet tale left me with a fulfilling satisfaction that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.