I read Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick, because there it was, advertised every time I turned my Kindle off. Whenever I saw it I thought, Jennifer Lawrence! And the catchy song from the preview would get stuck in my head. So after reading it, what’s a girl to do except go see it?
Mostly, the movie was funny. It’s a story about two damaged people falling in love, a happy thing in many ways. If you’re not going to read the book, watch the movie. It’s a good story, the actors convince us of their characters, and all those other positive movie-reviewer things to say. Two thumbs up.
But still. The book wins. Three thumbs up.
The movie lacks it. In the book, Quick’s balance of subtlety with revelation hits the nail on the head. In diary form, the narrator Pat gradually processes life like a child coming to understand reality for the first time. His past, his relationship with his father, and a new kind of friendship all develop throughout the space between the covers of the book (metaphorically speaking). The movie just announces these things and then focuses on the love story.
The movie barely notices Pat’s healing in favor of playing up the chemistry between Pat and Tiffany. First, we’re missing background, including a rocky relationship with his father. Pat’s mental illness seems to come on with only one trigger, as opposed to a lifetime of illness with multiple triggers, culminating in his breakdown.
And then, shockingly, Pat’s unfaithful ex-wife shows up in the movie. This is, in many ways, emotionally satisfying because Pat gets to reject her just as she rejected him.
But that is exactly not the point.
In the book, Pat learns to forgive as well as to love. And he learns to forgive thoroughly.
Nikki, Pat’s ex-wife, cheats on Pat with her coworker, Phillip (no secret if you’ve seen the first few minutes of the movie). Tiffany, his new friend, slept with everyone at work and got fired (no secret if you’ve seen a preview). Do you see that? Pat gets to see Nikki’s unfaithfulness from the other side, from Tiffany’s side. Tiffany is exactly like the person Pat hates most.
In the movie, Tiffany revels in her sex-filled past and Pat revels with her. In the book, however, Tiffany learns to want to move on, leaving those mistakes behind her. And Pat moves on with her, leaving behind the mistakes of his wife and her lover. He forgives Nikki, and the one time he sees her from afar, playing in the yard with her new husband (Phillip—wasn’t he the bad guy?) and two children, he wants her to be happy.
The book ends, not with a declaration of love like the movie, but with an acknowledgement of need. Two damaged people find healing and they do not have to be alone.
This is not a happy ending because Pat and Tiffany end up together. As Sharon points out, what kind of future can we expect for them? The ending induces satisfied sighs because it reminds us that healing comes. It may be painful, it may be ugly, it may leave scars; but everyone gets a happy ending. The bad guys included.