Friday, February 13, 2015

Film Friday: Silver Linings Playbook

Valentine's Day is tomorrow, so love is in the air. Plus, the Academy Awards and its celebration of the best films of the previous year is coming up on Feb. 22. That got me thinking back to one of my favorite movies in recent years, the romantic dramedy Silver Linings Playbook. To my chagrin, I saw the movie long before I read the novel, so I tried to make amends for that this year.

The Silver Linings Playbook (2008)
Written by Matthew Quick
Narrated by Ray Porter
Run Time: 7 hours 18 minutes
Publisher: Blackstone Audio/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Sports fans are some of the craziest people around. Whenever the Los Angeles Lakers win an NBA championship, police get put on tactical alert because there have been riots, car fires and general mayhem in the past. When the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup on home ice, fans set fires, looted stores and destroyed cars.

In the case of Pat Peoples, he's a diehard Philadelphia Eagles football fan who is let out of a Baltimore mental facility, or "the bad place" as he calls it, when the book begins. As he reconnects with family and friends, he hopes to reconnect with his wife Nikki and end "apart time." When over at a friend's house, he meets Tiffany, who herself has had issues stemming from the loss of her husband. From there, it's a mix of football games, a dance, therapy sessions, running and awkward social moments as the two literally run with each other and start to fall in love, albeit in an unlikely way.

The book was a complete joy to listen to and was a real page-turner. I devoured this book in two days and was hooked from start to finish. At one point, I laughed hysterically on a lunch break at my work, inadvertently spooking a co-worker. I was rooting for Pat and Tiffany most of the way, even as their relationship is messy and tangled with challenges. The side characters are a joy as well, particularly Pat's brother and therapist. Porter's narration is spot on, with each character clearly discernible and he often switches from voice to voice without any noticeable difficulty.

Grade: 4/5 stars. The book is a ton of fun on audiobook while still telling a compelling love story that even those with major mental health challenges can find their silver lining.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Written for the screen and directed by David O. Russell
Rated R for language and some nudity
Run Time: 2 hours 2 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Before the book was even published, Hollywood studios were aiming to make it into a film. Renee Witt, an executive at The Weinstein Company, convinced founder and major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to option the film rights. Four years later, the movie was a smash hit made on a $21 million budget, earning more than $130 million at the North American box office.

The film version of Silver Linings Playbook comes from the Jurassic Park school of screenplay adaptations where the basic structure of the story remains, but a lot of the details and sometimes whole sequences are added or removed. That's not to say the adaptation is bad. I love both of those films, but then again, I saw the movie first and the book much later in both cases. Screenwriter and director David O. Russell admitted to the Huffington Post that he rewrote the screenplay 20 times over a five year period because he was trying to get the tone balance right between the romance and humor aspects and the serious depictions of bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

The changes from book to celluloid are numerous, but here are a few. For starters, character names are tweaked and both the brother and therapist, two of my favorite characters in the novel, are featured far less in the movie than the book. Also, Kenny G and his tune "Songbird" terrorize Pat in the book, forcing him to often "close my eyes, hum a single note and count to ten." In the movie, the song that haunts him is Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour." Pat's dad is markedly different in both versions. In the book, he's very distant, moody and obsessive whereas in the movie, he has a gambling problem in addition to being obsessive compulsive. Pat's condition is never spelled out in the novel, though it's strongly hinted that he suffered a traumatic brain injury, while in the movie, he's diagnosed as bipolar.

The scene in the diner is vastly different from the book as well as the dance scene, which the movie makes out to be a major competition and in the book, it's more casual.  The movie essentially ends at the dance, but it happens at about the 3/4 mark of the book. By extension, the endings have the same net result, but very different ways of getting there. Personally, as much as it is a "Hollywood" ending, I like the film version better in part because it has my favorite line in the movie, delivered by Robert DeNiro:

Grade: A-. Terrific performances from the ensemble cast (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver and Chris Tucker) and the film's sensitivity to its depictions of mental illness make for a movie that didn't follow the book, but still maintained its spirit.

The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, all four acting categories and Best Adapted Screenplay. It lost the Best Picture race to the Iranian hostage drama Argo, a fantastic movie in its own right. Ironically, Jennifer Lawrence took home the movie's sole win (Best Actress) despite Russell's initial concerns that she was too young for the part. While the actors were already established by the time the movie came out, the film did propel the musical group The Lumineers to stardom, thanks to their song "Ho Hey" ("I belong with you, you belong with me, my sweetheart") being used in many of the film's ads and trailers.

Have you seen the movie or read the book? Is there a version you prefer?

No comments:

Post a Comment