When I found out my debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was going to be made into a major motion picture, I was thrilled to the point of speechlessness.
The movie theater has always been a sacred place, ever since my father and grandfather used to take me when I was just a boy. Hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of times I have been transformed in dark rooms as stories glow larger-than-life before me. Each time -- as I left the movies, often feeling lighter, better, somehow healed -- I secretly wondered if someday a story of mine and maybe even my name might shine brightly on screens across the world. Could I contribute somehow to the medium that had saved me time and time again?
Once that dream became a reality, I wondered what would become of my story -- one that was very personal, full of characters I loved like family, and about a subject near and dear to my heart. Letting go emotionally was an act of faith.
David O. Russell is a storytelling hero of mine. So when he became attached, I knew my novel was in good hands. The night before The Weinstein Company screened Silver Linings for me in Tribeca, David and I talked at length. Then we continued the conversation after I had seen the film. He seemed really interested in my opinion, and I came to believe his concern stemmed from a great respect for the source material and subject matter. I've had the opportunity to watch the film in the same theater with David and see him react to the audience's response. Like all great storytellers, he cares deeply for his characters and their stories. David has discussed his motivation for making this film -- he wanted to tell a story that would make his son feel like part of the world. Talking with people all over the country who have seen Silver Linings, I can easily say David's adaptation has made an extraordinary amount of people feel less alone.
A few weeks ago, I sat in the front row of Katie Couric's show, as Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, David, and Patrick Kennedy discussed The Silver Linings Playbook and mental health issues. The conversation was riveting and emotional. When the taping finished, Robert De Niro walked directly over to me, shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and gave me a nod. When perhaps the greatest living actor does this, it feels weighty. I might even use the word fatherly. I don't know for sure what Mr. De Niro was trying to convey. Even if he was merely being polite, the gesture was not lost on me. I'll never forget that classy and simple kindness. Coupled with the performance Mr. De Niro gave -- the raw emotion and deep understanding he imbued his character with, and the pure love he gave to Pat, a troubled son -- well, let's just say I'll be pondering that nod for the rest of my life. And I am very grateful.
I admit I was surprised when David cast Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, a character who has a deep sense of loss and regret, but a laser-beam direct way of living life. Could an actor so young have enough life experience and confidence to convey the broken intensity of such a character as Tiffany? In that screening room in Tribeca, I was loving the film from the opening shot -- but when Jennifer Lawrence first appears on screen, I found myself gripping the armrests. She is an absolute force. The added bonus for me is that Jennifer plays Tiffany almost exactly how I envisioned her while writing the book. How did Jennifer Lawrence do this at such a young age? What will she do next? How did she hold her own with De Niro and make it look effortless? Are we watching one of the greatest actresses of our time come of age?
Bradley Cooper is a Philly guy and was one of the first people to extend a hand in greeting when I visited the movie set. He understands Philly, and Eagles fandom. He runs as deep in person as he does on screen and made this writer feel comfortable during his first day on set, even suggesting I step ahead of him in the food line. That humanity comes through powerfully in his interpretation of Pat -- a man who is trying his damnedest to believe in silver linings and be the best person he is capable of being.
Jacki Weaver's nervous concern for all of the characters on the screen rings true, and not just in the context of being Pat's mom. I saw that same hesitant worried look on the faces of many mothers in the suburban Philly neighborhood in which I grew up. From the joy of making 'homemades' and 'crabby snacks' to the horror of watching your son and husband fistfight, Jacki Weaver subtly conveys the complexity of an unsung suburban matriarch who puts the needs of her loved ones before her own.
I'll be rooting for all of these people come Oscar night. I'll also be rooting for John Ortiz, who stole many scenes in my humble opinion; Anupam Kher, who has thanked me for writing a non-stereotypical Indian character that afforded him the ability to fulfill his life-long dream of working with Robert De Niro; Julia Stiles, who was lovely when we did a Q&A together in NYC; and the rest of the extremely talented cast and crew.
I'll be rooting for Harvey Weinstein too, who took a chance on a young writer's first book. Over a delicious turkey-club sandwich named after Harvey (seriously) just a few weeks ago, we talked about the mental health discussion people are now having across the nation and around the world. Harvey is happy to be a part of that, and so am I.
Fans of The Silver Linings Playbook often tell me that Pat's journey makes them feel less alone and gives them hope.
That's a beautiful good thing, for which I am very grateful.
I'm also grateful for the ways the book and film have furthered the mental health conversation. All the real-life Pats and Tiffanys out there -- and their friends and families -- need to know that no one has to be alone in life and silver linings do exist.
Sometimes when you attempt to put your best self into the world, the right people show up.
Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook.