The previews for the film version of The Silver Lining Playbook depict a raunchy comedy on a plane somewhere between The Hangover and The Forty Year Old Virgin. Yet, it was also nominated for a slew of Oscars and other important movie awards, the type of awards that are reserved for grown-up, mature movies. Based on this information, I assumed that there had to be at least some depth behind the plot, and that maybe that depth was hidden somewhere in the novel on which the film was based. That being said, I pushed my skepticism aside and leapt headlong into one of the most offbeat and quirky novels I have ever chanced upon.
Pat Peoples has spent the last four years of his life institutionalized for reasons that he cannot remember. Now living at home with his peace-keeping mother and Philadelphia Eagles-crazed father, Pat spends his days working out for ten hours at a time and writing his “memoirs,” which he plans to use to win back his estranged wife. Pat abides by this routine daily, until he meets his best friend’s sister Tiffany. Tiffany offers to help Pat reunite with his wife, but only if he agrees to be her dance partner in the “Dance Away Depression” competition. Hilarity ensues.
No, really – things actually do get pretty funny. And pretty emotional. Matthew Quick manages to channel the perfect blend of comedy and heartache into his debut novel. The troubled Pat is endearing and downright adorable, from his intense phobia of Kenny G. (“I fear him more than any other human being”) to his devotion to his own self-improvement for the sake of his MIA wife, Nikki. My one annoyance is that the novel is completely drenched in football-speak, since all male characters are dedicated Philadelphia Eagles fans. Similarly, it appears that the Peoples men are incapable of attending an Eagles game without getting involved in some sort of drunken brawl with strangers. Nevertheless, The Silver Linings Playbook is far more solid than I had imagined; the humor is more offbeat than raunchy, and the overall tone is one of melancholy tinged with hope. Without a doubt, this is a worthwhile read; I now understand the success of the film.