Tell me if you've heard this one before: The book is better than the movie. Usually, yes, that's the case (though, there are a few movies that are arguably better than the book), but there are also a few instances where I would argue that the book is actually equal to the film. Oftentimes, this happens when the film is a pretty close adaptation of the novel, a la, The Martian, or No Country For Old Men. But sometimes, the changes from the book to the movie are so good, that you could actually enjoy either version of the story just as well. This is the case with Silver Linings Playbook, which is based off of Matthew Quick's novel of the same name.
Because let me tell you. I read a lot of books, and I watch a lot of movies. That said, Silver Linings Playbook is one of those rare stories where I can honestly say that I enjoyed both for entirely different reasons, and also for the same reasons, since they're essentially the same story. Now, I already compared all three movie versions of I Am Legend, where I concluded that none of the movies really got it right. (Perhaps the upcoming I Am Legend sequel might get it right.) So, I'll just say that it's refreshing to talk about a movie that actually did get it right this time.
Still and all, there are a few MAJOR changes between the book and the movie, and I thought I would address them here. None of them really detract from the film, but all of them definitely give you a reason for why you should also read the book if you absolutely adore the film. Oh, and minor spoilers for both the film and the novel below.
Jennifer Lawrence's Character Is Much Older In The Book
Bradley Cooper's character, Pat, is changed in the film version, but not by much. In the book, his last name is Peoples rather than Solitano (He's also not Italian in the book), and he also has a traumatic brain injury in the book rather than bipolar disorder (I mean, he could have bipolar disorder as well, but it's not entirely spelled out like it is in the movie). But, Jennifer Lawrence's character is WAY different in the novel than she is in the film.
In the book, her character, Tiffany, is 39, while in the movie, the role was played by a 20 or 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence. I know age ain't nothin' but a number, but it does change Tiffany's character substantially in the book. In the novel, we get a better understanding of why this woman, who also lost her husband like Tiffany in the film, has had a harder time with coping, because her loss happened much longer ago.
Her character definitely feels as broken as Pat in this version. Their eventual romance seems even more realistic, due to the closeness of their ages, than that of the one formed by Cooper and Lawrence, which, while great (I mean, Lawrence did win an Oscar for her performance), made me have to suspend my belief a little bit, whereas I didn't have that same problem with the novel.
The Story Takes Place In New Jersey in The Book, Not Pennsylvania
As a Jersey boy myself who loves everything from the Garden State (including superheroes from New Jersey), I think I just have to point out that the novel version takes place in Collingswood, New Jersey and NOT Ridley Park, Pennsylvania like it does in the film. But here's why this is interesting. Collingswood is DEEP south in New Jersey, and if you're from this state, then you know that North and South Jersey are like completely different states.
In North Jersey, where I'm from, we root for the Yankees, Giants, Jets, and Nets (we also call "pork roll" Taylor Ham). In other words, we're pretty much New Yorkers. But in South Jersey, they might as well live in Pennsylvania since they root for the Eagles, Phillies, and Sixers. All of that is lovingly talked about in the novel, and it's all but absent in the film.
Yes, Pat loves the Eagles in both the book and the movie, but only in the book is the distinction made clear that South Jersey is NOT North Jersey.
There Is No Gambling Subplot In The Book
Anybody who has seen the film can tell you that Robert De Niro is a revelation in this movie. Sure, he had a substantial career before, most notably with his performances in Martin Scorsese films, but his Oscar-nominated turn as Pat's father, was heartfelt and funny, and totally worthy of the nod.
But, guess what. There is no gambling subplot in the novel, even though Pat Sr.'s gambling is a big plot point in the film. Yes, both Pat Seniors love the Eagles, but only the film version has Pat Sr. gambling on them. I think this is mostly just to give Robert De Niro's character more to do in the film. Honestly, I prefer this subplot. It definitely makes these scenes that much more exciting (and funny).
The Song That Triggers Pat Is Different In The Book
This one actually hurts, because the song that triggers Pat in the movie is the beautiful "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder. I say it hurts since I LOVE that song. Yes, it's a really interesting juxtaposition for a song that lovely to throw somebody into a fit of rage, but did it really have to be that song?
In the book, it's the much more suitable (says me) Kenny G that enrages Pat, as that's the musician with the song that always triggers Pat into anger. So, really, it's not a major difference, but it's one that made me sad in the movie, since again, "My Cherie Amour" is such a lovely tune.
The Book's Ending Is Way Different
Okay, so while there have been a few light spoilers in regards to the book and the movie thus far, I think the endings of both are the only area where fans of either might wildly disagree upon which is better. I would say that neither is better, and both fit in regards to the stories that are told up to their ending.
I actually don't want to spoil the end of the book for you since I do think you should read it. But, since you've likely seen the movie, I will say that the whole gambling subplot that I mentioned earlier doesn't play anywhere into the story as it does in the dance competition in the film. Pat's former wife, Nikki, also doesn't play into the ultimate climax as she does in the film, and Chris Tucker's character, Danny, has a much more substantial role toward the end of the book.
Again, I don't think either version is necessarily better. Each works given the rest of the story that came before it. So, read the book if you haven't already! It's really good!
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.