SILVER LININGS AND ACCEPTANCE: these two are at the very core of Matthew Quick’s “The Silver Linings Playbook” which David O. Russel turned into a movie and landed Jennifer Lawrence her first Oscar award.
PLOT. The book tells the story of Pat Peoples, a 30-year old history teacher who suffers from bipolarism and traumatic brain injury and just got out of a mental hospital. He was incarcerated there for four year but in what Pat believes is just a few months after having a breakdown following his discovery of his wife, Nikki’s, infidelity.
Pat believes his life is a movie that will end with him reuniting with his ex-wife—what he calls his silver lining. So he embarks on a mission of self-improvement by working out, jogging, practicing being kind to people, and reading various American literature such as “The Catcher in the Rye”, “The Bell Jar”, and “Huckleberry Finn”.
In the midst of his self-improvement, he meets Tiffany Maxwell, a 35-year old widow who suffers from a similar mental disorder as Pat’s and is known in town for having had sex with different men after her husband Tommy died. At first, Pat ignores Tiffany until the latter offers to be his liaison in contact his ex-wife Nikki but only if he agrees to be her dance partner in a competition. He accepts the offer and begins a journey of getting to know Tiffany even better through dance and their companionship.
After Pat and Tiffany won in the dance competition, Tiffany begins being a liaison and Pat starts communicating with his ex-wife in a series of letters which revealed to Pat the shocking truth about his breakdown and her new marriage. Not dampened by the revelations, Pat decides to ask Nikki for one last meeting on Christmas Day, but instead, meets Tiffany, who reveals to him that she wrote the letters so Pat can finally accept the reality of his divorce and his new found life.
Pat get angry and runs away, only to be mugged and hospitably treated by Danny, his friend and former co-patient in the mental hospital. In the end, Pat decides to accept his fate after seeing Nikki living happily with her new family. He meets with Tiffany once more and both profess their love for each other while looking at clouds amidst a snowstorm.
HAPPY ENDINGS. We all dream of this in our fucked up lives. The ordinary reader might think Pat Peoples is unique because of his bipolarism and traumatic brain injury, but to me, we are all like him looking for that movie-like montage of our lives complete with background music. In fact, I believe so much that life is a movie that I even have a collection of movie themes which I play in my ear every time I'm on the go.
Just like Pat Peoples, we crumble in the realization that life isn’t the movie we hoped for—especially when circumstances turn sour and frustrating and pushes us to the edge. Some people even grow old thinking that life is just full of shit, without the silver linings Pat always anticipated. This should not harden our hearts and prevent it from beating a rush of optimism. Whether Pat People’s optimism is anchored on false hopes, in the end, such optimism helped him find the acceptance he wanted so much in his world: in the form of Tiffany Maxwell.
Tiffany did what no other woman could’ve done—to charge against social norms (that the woman should be chased and not the other way around) and to beat her own crazy self in order to reach out to Pat and eventually love him without reservation. As Pat said in the ending:
“In my arms is a woman who has given me a Skywatcher's Cloud Chart, a woman who knows all my secrets, a woman who knows just how messed up my mind is, how many pills I'm on, and yet she allows me to hold her anyway.”
A LOVE WITHOUT RESERVATIONS. Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted? Someone to love us and we could love back despite our own imperfections? Someone who will always chase us even if we try to flee from the happiness life is offering us?
“The Silver Linings Playbook” teach us a valuable lesson in love, family, and relationships like no other book can and by putting us in the shoes of remarkably humane and genuine characters we can all find parallels in. Grab a copy of this book (or watch the film). There will be no regrets.