Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in "The Silver Linings Playbook."
Author Matthew Quick has an easy description of his best-selling novel "The Silver Linings Playbook."
"My one line pitch is that it's about a man who thinks his life is a movie produced by God," he said during a recent visit to the Twin Cities.
The novel is the basis for the romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" opening around the country this week, although Quick admits the part about deity as movie producer doesn't appear in the screen adaptation.
It's the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper) whose manic behavior has led to a brush with the law, a restraining order from his wife, and a few months of court-ordered treatment in a secure unit at the local mental health institution. On his release he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has just gone through her own brush with mental health issues after the death of her husband. Together Pat and Tiffany prove to be an explosive combination, and the film is a rollercoaster ride of humor and pathos.
"Their struggles in many ways mirror a lot of my struggles," Quick (left) says, then continuing that the issue of mental health is near and dear to his heart.
"I consider myself part of the mental health community," he says. "I deal with depressions and anxiety. I have worked in the mental health community, I counseled troubled teens for seven years when I was a high school English teacher."
"For me, you always want to be laughing at the absurdity of the situation, you mine the comedy from the absurdity of life. You don't want to be laughing at these people, because they are people, they have real struggles, and I think they are depicted that way in the novel and the film, but we can laugh at just how absurd these situations are, and how wild life often is."
Quick has just gone through the experience of having a celebrated director David O. Russell ("The Fighter") make a movie out of his novel without consulting him.
Quick told the audience at an advanced screening of the film in St Louis Park about how Hemingway described selling the movie rights to a novel as being like a bank robbery, where an author walks up to a wall and throws his book over the top. Someone on the other side then throws a bag of money back, which the author should grab and run away as fast as possible.
It wasn't quite that way for the Silver Linings Playbook. Matthew Quick is very pleased with how the movie has turned out.
Russell called Quick before the author saw the finished flick, and talked Quick through how he had written the screenplay. Quick says while Russell changed some things from the book were changed, at it's center the movie preserves the important things about the story.
Quick describes Pat as "a guy who is trying to reinvent himself, and he is trying to practice being kind rather than right, he is trying to get physically fit, he's trying to learn how to treat women well, and kind of atone for some of the past sins that he had."
Pat has to do this despite being surrounded by a family whose members have their own sets of foibles, not least his father, played by Robert de Niro. He's a bookie, whose love of the Philadelphia Eagles verges on the obsessive compulsive.
Quick says he was very pleased by how Russell and his actors filled out the characters.
"Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany is probably the most authentic rendering of my character from book to screen. It was clear to me that she embraced that character."
"Pat in the movie is a little bit different than the Pat in the novel. I think Bradley Cooper did a phenomenal job," he said. In keeping with the novel's theme of reinvention, Quick says Russell wanted to re-introduce Bradley Cooper as a performer.
"And so David wanted the audience to see Bradley Cooper, not at 'People's Sexiest Man' but as this new character. That's why in the first scene when you see the movie come up, you are on Bradley Cooper's back, because David consciously wanted to evoke this question 'who is this guy?'"
And it really works. Cooper gives one of the best performances of his career so far.
Matthew Quick has been touring the country for previews of the film and has loved audience reactions. He says it's allowing people to speak openly about troubling issues - while also having a good time.
"The silver lining of that if you will is that I think we are really getting people to talk," he said. "When people are seeing something on the screen that they feel is authentic in some cases things that they are struggling with at home, be it bipolar disorder, or depression, and they say 'that was really authentic, that represents what I am going through, any yet I am leaving the theater with a smile on my face and feeling uplifted.'"
Quick says he believes romantic comedies have been demonized by some people, as incapable of being important or significant. He hopes that changes with "Silver Linings Playbook."
"I would like my readers and the viewers of this film to leave feeling maybe a little bit better than they came in. And there is nothing wrong with that. I think that's beautiful."
(All images courtesy the Weinstein Company, except for image of Matthew Quick which is an MPR photo/Euan Kerr)