Welcome back to this week’s installment of Movie Mondays: Book to Screen Adaptations! The book to movie adaptation I have chosen for this week is Silver Linings Playbook, the novel my Matthew Quick that was adapted into a film of the same name ob David O. Russell and starred two of my favorite actors
I mean come on, who doesn’t love J-Law? We both grew up in what is affectionately known as “Kentuckiana,” the name given to Southern Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky because it’s basically all one big metropolis -only separated by the Ohio River and a quick trip over a bridge. If you don’t know where that is, let me dazzle you with some useless fun facts: Louisville is the hometown of Muhammad Ali, where The Kentucky Derby is held every year, as well as where Thunder Over Louisville takes place, which to my knowledge has yet to be dethroned as the largest fireworks display in the United States. Southern Indiana is basically known for being the birth place of Papa John’s Pizza, and maybe some other cool facts but all I can think about is how delicious that pizza is. Please excuse the above tangent that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post.
Back to the reason for this post! The novel and film have some vast differences, but this is one of those rare situations where the story the book presents is made better by making it into a movie. Due to the main character Pat’s mental illness, his narration wasn’t always the most reliable, and the movie took it and made Pat’s message and thoughts more poignant and meaningful. Although they share the same themes, David O. Russell’s adaptation took those themes and explored them with more depth, heart, and humanity. It also doesn’t hurt that the cast did an absolutely impeccable job portraying their characters. The legendary Robert De Niro plays Cooper’s character’s father Patrizio and the wonderful actress Jacki Weaver plays his mother Dolores, and both were magnificent in their roles. Whether it was due to the fabulous screenplay or Russell’s direction, the film allowed the actors to take these sometimes flat and one dimensional characters as they were written in the book and bring them to life in a way that made them seem like real and authentic people who like everybody else in the world, just want to feel worthy enough to be loved.
Pat Peoples (in the book) or Solitano (in the movie) has just been released from the mental hospital where he has been serving time for assaulting his wife’s lover in a fit of emotional instability, but is determined that as long as he remains positive, he can win his wife Nikki back and he can have a happy life with the woman he loves. As he arrives home and settles into life at his parent’s house, he is invited to dinner by friends, who introduce him to Tiffany. Tiffany is a widow with a set of emotional issues that rival Pat’s. Since Pat knows that Tiffany sees Nikki from time to time, he strikes a deal with her that in exchange for him agreeing to be her partner in a dance competition, she will deliver letters back and forth between Pat and Nikki since Pat is not allowed any other forms of communication with her due to a restraining order. Tiffany and Pat spend a lot of time together and develop a friendship. However, when the truth behind the letters comes to light, the two engage in an emotional confrontation that allows them to see beyond each other’s respective amount of crazy, and discover that their connection is much stronger than they thought, and that they may just be what the other one needs in order to be happy.
David O. Russell’s screenplay takes what makes the book special and improves upon it.
**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD**
The main differences between the book and the movie are the way the situation with the letters Pat believed Tiffany was delivering to Nikki in return for his participation in the dance competition played out, and Pat’s overall mental state. In the movie, his mental state is much more stable, and he had only spent 8 months in the mental institution. However, the story the book tells is that Pat believes he had only been there a matter of months, and is shocked to find that he had actually spent several years there and has issues remembering what had happened between he and Nikki before his time in the “bad place” as he refers to it. The slow build up and flirtation between Tiffany and Pat as they spend time together rehearsing their dance routine for the competition is the same in both, and Pat is happy because he believes he still has a shot at being with his estranged wife because Tiffany is giving her the letters and telling her how much better he is and that he’s no longer that messed up guy. The letters keep Pat motivated to try to be better, and Pat’s final letter to Nikki suggests they meet at the place they got engaged, but even after he received no reply, he went to the location anyway and was furious to find Tiffany there instead of Nikki. After Tiffany confesses to writing the letters in a somewhat well-meaning but self-serving effort to help Pat move on from his non-existent marriage because she is in love with him, Pat is severely distraught and runs away. In his confusion due to his compromised emotional state, he ends up in a part of town he’s unfamiliar with and is assaulted. By some incredible stroke of luck, Pat comes across his friend Danny from the mental hospital, and Danny helps Pat get in touch with his family and get to a hospital. Throughout the book, Pat never acknowledges what had happened to drive he and Nikki apart, and he fails to remember his part in the reason for him being sent to the mental hospital, but after recovering from his assault and watching the wedding video his mother had hidden – a somewhat similar scene takes place in the movie involving the wedding video- he remembers what happened and realizes his marriage to Nikki is truly over. After receiving another letter from Tiffany, he agrees to meet with her and they reconcile and realize that they need each other. In the movie, Nikki does show up to the dance competition, much to Tiffany’s dismay, and it is there that Pat and Nikki talk and gain closure about their marriage. Realizing that Tiffany has left after seeing him talking to Nikki, Pat chases after her and they confess their love for each other, leading to a happy ending. It’s odd because when you first watch the film, you don’t think that much of the story has changed. Then when you revisit the book, it becomes clear that a lot of things were changed, but the changes made for a much better story.
There are other minor differences that, to me, also improved upon the book’s story. Such as Danny, played hilariously by Chris Tucker, having a much bigger role in the film, and Tiffany’s age. It’s never said how old she is, but the book suggests she is middle aged, while a young Jennifer Lawrence takes on the role, she does so with such an understanding of the character and her struggles that her age doesn’t matter. Some critics of the film suggested Jennifer Lawrence’s casting was another example of Hollywood’s history of ageism, but anyone who has watched the film can see that it was a choice based on her talent and not necessarily her age, although I’m sure her age didn’t hurt.
The book and movie are both great stories, but the movie wins hands down. I love what it did to get people talking about the negative stigma that surrounds mental illness, and how we should view those who struggle with it. However, I still think reading the book made watching the film better. No matter how different the book and movie may be in an adaptation, I always suggest reading the book first, getting your own idea of who the characters are, and then watching the film to see if the cast measures up to your picture of who they are. I also must say that the book was very well-written, and I commend Matthew Quick for exploring a difficult topic in such an open and honest way.
In my opinion, this is another rare instance that a book is made better by being made into a film. The credit goes to David O. Russell and his brilliant cast for taking a subject that is so personal, and making in incredibly relatable.
I hope you enjoyed my take on Movie Monday!
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