If you aren’t new around here then you will be familiar with my structuring of this series, and if you are new then I will link all my previous ‘The book versus movie debate’ posts at the end of this one so you can check out the others that I have written (if you would like to of course).
For anybody that hasn’t read one of these posts before I will just explain that I will be doing this one just like the others, I will start with a small explanation of the book and the film for anybody that hasn’t read/watched it and then I will move to explore the main differences between the book and the film that I discovered, whether they bothered me or not, and why. Finally I will have a go at answering the question: which is better?
I hope you enjoy reading this!
The Silver Linings Playbook was first published in 2008 and is the debut novel of Matthew Quick. Narrated by Pat Peoples, we follow his journey from a neural health facility to find his silver lining which is to get fit, get well and win back his wife. Along the way we meet clinically depressed Tiffany who agrees to help Pat reconnect with his wife Nikki in return for him meeting the demands of her ‘contract’. Will Pat’s silver lining be the one he thought, or is he heading for a surprise?
The Silver Linings Playbook: film
The film adaptation was released in 2012, directed by David O. Russell. The overall storyline matches that of the book; Pat is on a journey to reunite with his wife (his silver lining) following his time in a neural health facility. Bradley Cooper stars as Pat and Jennifer Lawrence brings Tiffany to the screen. The film received mainly positive reviews and saw Cooper and Lawrence nominated for Best Actor and Actress Oscars. Lawrence went on to win in her category. The film was nominated for many other awards and won other accolades that include, but are not limited to; a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture.
From here I will move to explore the main differences that I found between the film and the book as I attempt to answer the question: which is better?
PAT’S TIME IN THE NEUROLOGICAL FACILITY
For me, the entire basis of the book is Pat’s journey with his mental health struggles. It is the backbone of the story and therefore so important that he was receiving treatment for four years, a fact that he is unaware of. We witness his shock and surprise as certain revelations prove to him that he was ‘away’ for a lot longer than he first thought. It makes his journey, thoughts and feelings all the more powerful and desperate. In the film however, his time at the facility is reduced to eight months. Personally, this reduction in time is, I feel, unnecessary and does somewhat take away from Pat’s journey. I would have liked to have seen the film stay true to this aspect of the book because I feel it is a vital component for the main character.
PAT’S AWARENESS OF WHY HE WAS INSTITUTIONALISED
In the film it is revealed to us and to Pat what events took place to lead to his mental turmoil and his treatment. The book however keeps this hidden from us and Pat for the majority of the story. I felt like I got to experience the journey with Pat as a result of this. I shared his frustration at being kept in the dark and unable to remember and I wondered for a long time whether he should end up with Nikki or Tiffany. This desperate feeling that allowed me to really relate to Pat was removed by the film and I must admit I felt a little cheated as a result. Had I watched the film before reading the book then it is possible that this detail wouldn’t have bothered me but because I had already experienced the book I was left annoyed at this change.
PAT’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS FATHER
In the book Pat is desperate to reconnect with his father and is left constantly rejected. There are snippets of hope, mainly centred around a mutual love for The Eagles but it never comes to fruition fully. This disappointment is heartbreaking for both the reader and Pat himself. In the film Pat’s father is in pursuit of a relationship with him. He wants to re-establish his bond with his son. I’m sure you would expect me to be annoyed again at this change but I must admit that this one didn’t upset me. I confess that the reason I didn’t end up annoyed with this is because the relationship between Pat and his father was one of the biggest sources of sorrow for me when reading the book. Therefore, I felt like what I was desperate to see in the book had been realised in the film; Pat’s dad did really care and did really want a solid relationship with him. However, if I take those feelings away then I can appreciate that their relationship and how it was portrayed was so important within the book and perhaps it should have been kept that way in the film adaptation.
PAT’S RELATIONSHIP WITH TIFFANY
This particular relationship is the main focus of the film. This is not the case in the book. In fact, Pat and Tiffany are only as important as Pat and his mother or Pat and his father or brother or therapist for the vast majority of the book if not throughout. The focus is placed far more heavily on Pat himself. I feel like this is important within the book and I wouldn’t change that, however I can see why the film adaptation was made to focus on Pat and Tiffany. A love story translates onto the big screen so well and without the time that a book has to develop certain angles it would have been hard to relate to the characters and the progression of events had the film followed the book entirely. Therefore, this change is one that I can understand was necessary to make.
In the book the dance competition is anything but. It is simply a showcase of talent with no winners. Tiffany is an aspiring choreographer and the dance is entirely her composition. In fact she is extremely bossy with Pat as she ensures he matches her vision completely with his performance. In the film however it is a professional competition and Tiffany is not as talented as her book counterpart. Instead, Danny is drafted in to make some much needed improvements to help them reach their goal. I much prefer the bossy Tiffany of the book and I love the fact that there is no competition. Yes, I can appreciate that the Tiffany of the film brings a certain vulnerability to this part that the book character doesn’t but I would choose bossy Tiffany every single time. I like how her passion shines through.
Pat has no real interaction with Nikki in the book. She has moved on fully from him and is happy in her new life. Pat gains closure only by watching her from afar on one occasion and being content that although it is not him that is making her happy at least she is happy. In the film Nikki does interact with Pat, she attends the dance competition and considers giving Pat a second chance. The closure for Pat here is that he realises that it is Tiffany that he really wants and so he picks her over Nikki. For the first time I prefer the film approach here. I like that Pat has found enough strength and contentment within himself to realise that Tiffany is the one for him. I wish it had been his decision in the book as well. This might just be my inner romantic coming out though!
The book ends with a strong sense of hope regarding Tiffany and Pat but no overwhelming declaration of love. The film provides exactly that however. Pat chases after Tiffany and tells her how much he loves her. It is the traditional romantic ending come to fruition. I like both endings. My inner romantic comes out again when I say that after rooting for Pat and Tiffany it was everything I wanted to see to watch them get their happy ending. However, the book portrays mental health and life in general in such a raw and honest way that the ending that Quick provided was exactly the ending that was necessary to honour the rest of the book. It would not have been right to have Tiffany and Pat, two characters that have such struggles that they have not fully overcome to all of sudden leave all that behind. It wouldn’t have worked, so, I believe Quick wrote the best ending that he could have and anything else would have been dishonest and disloyal to the characters and their ongoing journeys.
Now, which is better?
I don’t really feel like this section is necessary in this post. It will be quite clear to you that I think that the book is better. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film, I really did, but, I think the book was more realistic and emotive as a result. There was no Hollywood happy ending, no suggestion that everything is going to be alright, no portrayal that mental health doesn’t affect those that care about the individual also. This is not to say that the film handled difficult issues badly, it really didn’t. I felt it was sensitive to the topic just as the book was. I simply think that the book was a little more authentic and a little more successful in giving those that struggle some comfort. As for everybody else, it provides something extremely valuable…understanding and relatability. I will definitely read the book again and watch the film again but if I could only pick one then it would absolutely be the book.
What do you think of my thoughts? Are there any that you agree/disagree with? Let me know!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, if I missed any obvious differences then please share them, I would be really interested to read them!
As I said at the start, links to the other posts in this series will be just below so please check them out if you haven’t read them already!
Until the next time…Jess x