A delightful find!
12 October, 2013
I can never thank director David O. Russell for making a movie (Silver Linings Playbook – 2012) based on the novel The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, because if it wasn’t for the movie, I would never have discovered the book. And I wouldn’t have known what I was missing.
I had been hearing rave reviews for the movie and was dying to watch it, admittedly more for a chance to feast my eyes on the hunky Bradley Cooper than for anything else. With a brand new baby at home, I knew the chances of catching a show were much too bleak. So I did what I thought was the next best thing. When I learned that the movie was based on a novel, I borrowed it from the local library, hoping to turn a few pages during baby’s nap times.
Very soon, I was reading it all the time – keeping it propped up against the microwave while making dinner, while trying to rock a crying infant to sleep, late into the night, at the breakfast table. Till the day before, I had never heard of Matthew Quick, and now he had me hooked. And how!
The Silver Linings Playbook is the story of a young man named Pat Peoples, whose mother takes him home from the asylum right at the beginning of the story. With each page, the reader unfurls one layer at a time to discover more about this man – why he was at the asylum, why his family is fidgety every time Pat brings up his wife Nikki’s name, why he can’t find his wedding video, why he can’t go back to work as a History teacher, why the soulful tunes of My Cherie Amour make him hold his head and cringe in agony. What sets this story apart is that Pat discovers himself with the reader. The circumstances that led him to the asylum are as much of a mystery to Pat, suffering from a form of neurosis and under the treatment of Dr. Patel, as they are to the reader. All he can share with the readers is that he loves Nikki with all his heart and that they will be together once ‘apart time’ is over. And when he isn’t trying to mend his shaky relationship with his father or cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles, he is running. Sculpting his body to perfection would make Nikki happy.
Throughout, his stabbing loneliness, his desperation to find Nikki and his undying faith come through so clearly, that I felt myself fervently hoping they would unite soon. And I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, to see who this mysterious Nikki was and why she was away from Pat. And I was so involved in the story that I felt that I was turning the pages as much for Pat’s sake as for mine!
Then walks in a most interesting character in the form of Tiffany, a fiery widow, Pat’s best friend’s sister-in-law. Loss of a spouse and similar neuroses bring them closer, as they try to work out their issues and understand each other’s eccentricities.
Eventually, Tiffany ropes Pat in to be her partner at a dancing competition, in exchange for an offer Pat can’t refuse – Tiffany would act as a bridge between Pat and Nikki and would risk going against a restraining order to bring the two of them each other’s letters, and if they win the competition, they could meet. How Pat – somebody who has never danced except for a silly jig at the Eagles games – gives it all he has got and the pain he takes to train for the dance, just so that he can hear from Nikki, is heart-breaking. And a series of warm and passionate letters down the line, what awaits Pat and the readers is another unexpected twist. After several turns of events which I will let the readers find out, the story ends with Pat and Tiffany lying down on the grass and studying the clouds. That has to be one of the most subtly beautiful imagery of romance I have happened to come across in any book.
What I liked best about the book was that how it is easy to know exactly what each character is feeling, without them actually saying anything aloud. And this is where the movie, though undoubtedly lovely, falls short. However, one point where the movie scores over the book is in the results of the dance competition, which I thought was more realistically portrayed in the movie.
If you neither read the novel nor watched the movie and wish to do both, do watch the movie first; because it is too easy to find faults with the movie once you have experienced the book, and that would dampen the enjoyment of the movie like it did for me.
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