Sunday, 2 February 2014

'The Silver Linings Playbook' by Matthew Quick: A Book/Movie Review

And the season of book reviews continues...

I finished reading yet another novel by Matthew Quick this morning. This one is actually the first book he's written!
I also watched the movie a couple of hours ago. 

Also an acclaimed, award-winning movie, here's the plot summary, courtesy of

"Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!
In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective."

I'd heard a lot about the movie, but I only realised it was originally a book when I read 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock'. As usual, I decided to read the book first and then watch the movie.

Let's start with the book. 

The book starts off very nicely. It's written from Pat's perspective, who has just returned home from 'the bad place' a.k.a the mental institution where he was sent after a certain incident took place with his wife. The only problem is that he has no memory of this incident, nor the events leading up to it. He believes that his apart time with Nikki will end once he becomes kinder, smarter and physically fit. This is why he now spends almost every waking minute working out and/or reading literature that his wife teaches in school. 

Pat is the kind of person who believes in silver linings - even though he knows that his marriage is crumbling (or has already crumbled), he refuses to believe that it's the end of the movie of his life. He is waiting for the silver lining, for the happy ending with his loving wife.

If you're planning to read American literature like 'The Great Gatsby' or 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn', you're going to have all the endings spoiled for you. Pat tells you how they all end, and he isn't too pleased. He can't understand why there's no silver lining in fiction.

Then he meets Tiffany, his friend Ronnie's wife's sister. Recently widowed, Tiffany, too, is shunned by society and branded as a 'crazy slut'.

At first, Pat doesn't like her one bit. Their first meeting isn't exactly fun. After that, she follows him around during his daily runs and doesn't speak a word to him.
But then it becomes a daily ritual that even he starts to look forward to. That's what I really loved about Pat and Tiffany's friendship. They're both so broken, but they don't need words to comfort each other. The mere presence of the other person is enough!

Pat also has to meet with his therapist, Dr. Patel, once a week. Dr. Patel makes me proud to be an Indian. I found myself enjoying his interactions with Pat and even looking forward to them after a few chapters.
Dr. Patel shares Pat's love for football and is also a fellow Eagles fan. Instead of just the typical therapist-patient relationship, they actually come together as friends.

As for Pat's relationship with his father... well, I sometimes didn't find it believable that his father could go from incredibly angry to ecstatic in just a few seconds, with each outcome depending on the victory or loss of the Eagles. Maybe he's just a football fanatic or maybe he's super moody. I don't know.

The book does get a little boring around the middle, partly because there is a lot centered around the Eagles and the football matches, and I don't really like reading about sports.
But once the third part of the book began... my goodness! I was practically glued to the book. I think the last third of the story is so much better than the first two. I saw some real character development, some much-needed comedic relief and a few emotional scenes (especially the ending!). There were twists I hadn't anticipated, too.

Here are some of the dialogues that I loved:

“Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.” 

“In my arms is a woman who has given me a Skywatcher's Cloud Chart, a woman who knows all my secrets, a woman who knows just how messed up my mind is, how many pills I'm on, and yet she allows me to hold her anyway. There's something honest about all this, and I cannot imagine any other woman lying in the middle of a frozen soccer field with me - in the middle of a snowstorm even - impossibly hoping to see a single cloud break free of a nimbostratus.” 

“Looking into another person's eyes for an extended period of time proved to be a powerful thing. And if you don't believe me, try it yourself.” 

One part I really enjoyed was when Pat talks about the 'montage' of his life. Simply amazing to read those bits and to imagine the sequences in my head!
The ending, I loved. It was somewhat bittersweet, but it did have the silver lining that Pat always wanted the movie of his life to have. 

Sadly, the actual movie did not please me in any way. It was a complete disappointment.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradly Cooper were amazing and played their roles very well, yes, but the script is so different from the book - and not in a good way - that I couldn't understand why anyone would want to ruin the characters and change a perfectly good story.

The dynamics of Pat and Tiffany's relationship are completely different here. In the book, they're both introverts, finding solace in each other's silence (at one point in the book, Pat even calls her his 'best friend'!). In the movie, they argue and curse and shout at each other so much that instead of seeming wounded and depressed, they just seem short-tempered and angry.
Pat's dad is an obsessive, superstitious man whom I still didn't care for. Dr. Cliff Patel is shown for not more than ten minutes. Ronnie and Veronica's marriage is dysfunctional, though in the book they are happily in love, which makes much more sense and also shows the stark contrast between their perfect marriage and the mess that is Pat's life.
I didn't like any of the characters in the movie. Not Pat, not Tiffany, not even Dr. Patel!

The dance competition and the football tournaments are given more importance than the real story of Pat finally understanding what love is all about, and coming to terms with his marriage ending.

No, this movie is not about silver linings. It is a romantic comedy with cheesy lines, colourful rainbows and pink unicorns. It was not as dark, deep or thoughtful as the book, and as the minutes went by, I found myself saying, "What the hell? What the hell?!" too often in my head.

I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for the book, and 2.5 stars out of 5 for the movie. 

Both the movie and the book have excessive swearing and mild sexual themes, so I'd only recommend them for ages 15 and up. 

If you want a 'cute' love story that makes no sense considering how Pat is shown to be crazily in love with his wife Nikki, then watch the movie. Otherwise, read the book to know the real story of life - that you don't always get the perfect, happy ending that you wanted. But there's always a silver lining to every cloud. :)

Click here for more book reviews, and let me know in the comments below what you thought of the book and/or the movie.



  1. Swati! I've nominated you for the Liebster Award! For more info check out my blog :)


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