The Silver Linings Playbook: Read It or Watch It?

February 6, 2014 Movie & TV Musings, Reviews 7 ★★★

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on September 2, 2008
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Puchased
An enchanting first novel about love, madness, and Kenny G.

The Silver Linings Playbook is the riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal.

During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.

When Pat meets the tragically widowed and clinically depressed Tiffany, she offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife, if only he will give up watching football, agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition, and promise not to tell anyone about their “contract.” All the while, Pat keeps searching for his silver lining.

In this brilliantly written debut novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, deftly showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. The result is a touching and funny story that helps us look at both depression and love in a wonderfully refreshing way.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post, it’s that you MUST watch the film version of The Silver Linings Playbook, staring Bradley Copper and Jennifer Lawrence.  I saw it in the theater, even though I was skeptical about how much I would enjoy a film focused on mental illness.  But it was fantastic, and it was funnier than I could have expected.  Lawrence and Cooper were both nominated for Oscars (Lawrence won), and they were predictably awesome.  I bought it on Blu-ray, and it’s currently playing on Showtime, so I’ve watched it, ohhhhh, around ten times or so.

Buying the book was a no-brainer, and I also picked up the audiobook when it was offered as a daily deal on Audible.  I recently listened to the audiobook, and I was struck by the differences between the film and the book.  Of course, there will always be alterations when a book is adapted for a film, but in this case, the changes highlighted major differences in the tones of both versions.  Most notably, Pat’s (Cooper) mental illness seems much more severe in the book than in the film.  He’s hospitalized in both versions, but for a much longer period in the book.  In the film, Pat has several outbursts, but he never seems like he might be dangerous either himself or others.  As played by Cooper, he seems more quirky than mentally ill, albeit with a very unhealthy fixation on his ex-wife.

The character of Tiffany (Lawrence) was perhaps an even bigger departure from the book than Pat.  She’s depressed, due in no small part to the death of her husband, and this comes through loud and clear in the book.  In the film, Tiffany seems more grouchy and abrasive than depressed, and I suppose her dark hair and black clothes were meant to convey her “darkness.”  But like the film Pat, it seemed that her problems were fairly surmountable.

When I finished the audiobook, I found myself wishing that I had read the book prior to watching the film.  Or maybe I just needed more distance between the two, because the film is so fresh in my mind.  I know it affected my appreciation for the book, and I feel like it didn’t get a fair shot as a result.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for a happy ending, because the ending of the film was delightful and made me feel all warm and fuzzy, but the end of the book didn’t give me that same feeling.  What’s strange is that I don’t always love the happy endings in books, but I had a certain expectation going into this one, and I was rooting so strongly for the characters as played by Cooper and Lawrence.  As events began to unfold differently (quite differently, in some cases) than they did on the screen, I became less invested in their story.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!  Have you seen or read The Silver Linings Playbook?  Have you had similar experiences with other book to film adaptations?


7 Responses to “The Silver Linings Playbook: Read It or Watch It?”

  1. Kelly

    This is the main reason I haven’t read Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist – if the book is different in tone, or if it doesn’t play out like it does in the movie, I’ll be really upset! Haha

    I have seen this movie, and I found it to be pretty quirky and fun. I do think it failed to capture the severity of living with an untreated mental illness – it almost poked fun at the slightly ridiculous sides of certain mental illnesses, which was kind of upsetting. It sounds like the book offers a much more realistic portrayal.
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    • Stephanie

      I can see where you think the movie is poking fun at mental illness. I think it might come across that way because David O. Russell made this more of a romance than a film about mental illness. I’d say that the book takes the opposite approach, and it does seem much more realistic.

  2. Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Book Blog)

    I did the exact same thing!! Saw the movie and loved it, then went out and bought the book and started reading it immediately. While I liked the book, I feel like seeing the movie and having it leave me feel so good about stuff sort of ruined the book. Because the book SO doesn’t have that same romantic feel. The ending was so different and I was really surprised by how that made me feel. I didn’t want Tiffany and Pat to be together by default, I wanted them to be like the movie. And I was disappointed by the whole dance thing in the book. The movie version of the dancing was so much better. I probably would have liked the book much better if I didn’t already fall in love with JLaw and Bradley Cooper’s versions of the characters.
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    • Stephanie

      I thought about making a list of the many differences between the book and the film, and the dance would have been at the top of it. I loved that scene, too. When it happened so early on (and in such a different way) in the book, I didn’t know what to think. David O. Russell did a great job adapting the book, but I wonder what people who were huge fans of the book first thought of the film. They were probably disappointed, too.

  3. Natalie @Natflix&Books

    I actually read the book first, so I didn’t have any expectations going in. I was actually quite surprised by the movie–the much lighter tone, the fact that his father was “lovable”, the romance. I liked both the book and the film, but they are definitely separate entities. I did love Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in their respective roles. Great post!
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  4. Robyn Jones

    I’ve only watched the movie and I was amazed by the characters. For a while there everyone needed a time out. They were all messes! But I just loved when the dancing started up and Jennifer’s character was heartbreaking and awful and lovely, which is a crazy combination! I haven’t read the book, but I have to say some stories are just better from one viewpoint, either the book or the movie, but not both in my head. Now I want to see the movie again. I would love a post on the differences. That’s always fun! Happy Friday, Stephanie!
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