January 13, 2013
The Book by MATTHEW QUICK:
I got interested to watch "The Silver Linings Playbook" only because of the upcoming film of the same title which was receiving a lot of awards buzz. I thought it would be a good idea to read the book first before the film, starring the unlikely pair of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who were both nominated for Golden Globes acting awards for their work.
"The Silver Linings Playbook" was about a mentally-disturbed man named Pat Peoples. He had just been brought home from the mental institution by his loving mom. He spends his days exercising at home, running, and visiting his unorthodox therapist, Dr. Cliff Patel. All of this he is doing in order to get ready to reunite with his wife Nikki, the silver lining he was yearning for. However, with time he realizes that what he knew was only part of a huge secret iceberg that his loved ones were staunchly keeping from him. His odd friendship with Tiffany, a similarly mentally-disturbed lady in their neighborhood, leads Pat into a rude awakening about what really happened to him before being sent to the institution.
The book was surprisingly easy to read. The language was simple and straightforward. For something that dealt with very serious topic of mental instability and divorce, the text had a very child-like perspective and narration. I enjoyed reading the parts where Pat was analyzing classic novels like "The Great Gatsby," "The Bell Jar" or "Catcher in the Rye". People who have not read these books need to be warned that there are spoilers though as to how these novels end. There is also a recurring mention of Kenny G. which was particularly funny the way it was written.
The credits reveal that this was author Matthew Quick's first novel. He thus set it in his hometown of Philadelphia and devoted a lot of pages about the fan rituals of the football team, the Eagles, Quick's favorite and well as the favorite of Pat's family and friends. The overall result is a funny bittersweet drama that was frank as much as it was charming and quirky. I can fully imagine Bradley Cooper as Pat, although in the book Pat describes himself as unattractive. But Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, now that I have to see.
The Movie by DAVID O. RUSSELL:
I am not really one who likes to watch romantic comedies, but as this one had Oscar buzz, and as of now multiple Oscar nominations,so I wanted to see what this was about. I have recently read the book by Matthew Quick, admittedly in preparation for watching this movie. While the book had a decidedly child-like tone being told in Pat's mentally-disturbed point of view, this movie is a lot more dramatic and serious in tone. The romantic comedy is still in there, but this film is more mature than the book.
From the onset, you already knew that this was not going to be an exact depiction of the book. A lot of changes were noted in the transition from book to film. For some reason, the surname of Pat's family was changed from Peoples to Solitano for some reason. Instead of "Songbird" by Kenny G, Pat hates "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder. All the football stories in the book were summarized into one tailgate party scene in the parking lot of the Philadelphia Eagles' stadium.
The story progression, plot development and even the climax were totally different from the book but decidedly more effective cinematically. These changes made were in no way insulting or disappointing to the fans of the book. It did lead to an ending we have seen so many times before in several a romantic comedy in a sequence of scenes which were also not even in the book. But for the sake of the immense goodwill built up by the very effective chemistry of the two charismatic lead stars, audiences will love this new version of the ending and cheer.
It is truly remarkable that a romantic comedy could garner nominations in the top 5 Oscar categories and then some. Aside from Best Picture, Director, Screenplay (adapted), this film had the rare distinction of having a nominee in ALL 4 ACTING categories! The last time this nomination phenomenon occurred was way back 1981 with the film "Reds," where Wareen Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Maureen Stapleton all got nods.
While I read the book, I already knew who the lead stars were, so I had Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in my mind in their respective roles as Pat and Tiffany. While I can fully imagine Cooper as Pat, I simply cannot imagine Jennifer as Tiffany. However, while watching the film, Jennifer could not have been a more apt choice. She pulls off this very mature role convincingly with a ferocity and sexiness heretofore only hinted at in "X-Men First Class." Jennifer embodies her Tiffany with a special charm which was not readily felt in the book description of this disturbed lady.
Bradley Cooper so far we remember only for his stupid "Hangover" movies. He gave us a glimpse of his acting versatility in "Limitless" in 2011. But this role as Pat seemed to have been written with him in mind. He had embodied this role of the troubled bipolar guy to a perfect T. He remains likable despite his unstable mental condition, as Pat was in the book. As portrayed by Cooper, audiences will root for this guy. He was able to subdue his usual alpha male persona with a sensitive underdog performance.
While the book had a more dominant role of Pat's Mom, actress Jacki Weaver had to take a backseat to Robert de Niro in the meatier role of Pat's Dad. Ms. Weaver can count herself lucky to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as her role had been considerably edited in the final screen version. Glad to see De Niro back in good comic form as Pat's supportive Dad. As originally written in the book, Pat's Dad hardly had any dialog nor much to do or even supportive of Pat at all. I guess this role was rewritten to deserve the talent of the actor they signed up for it.
As for its quest to be the first contemporary romantic comedy since "Annie Hall" (1977) to win the Oscar best picture, I do not think that is completely impossible. However, win or no, this movie will be a favorite of many audiences, even for guys only forced by their significant others to watch with them. It will make you feel good and smile when you leave the theater, and that is what most of us all like in our movies.