***SPOILERS. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE BOTH WATCHED THE FILM AND READ THE BOOK. If you haven’t, read the book first, then watch the film, then come back to me***
I had never heard of this book before last week, despite having bought it for work and catalogued it myself, maybe it was the instantly forgettable cover or the fact that it didn’t get a Me Before You style advertising campaign but it just slipped under the radar and sat happily on my shelves, being taken out a couple of times, but no big deal. I couldn’t even remember reading the blurb.
I saw a couple of reviews for the film that came out last month, all fairly positive, and read a few ‘Tips for Oscars’ for the main leads and the title reminded me of something but I didn’t know what, and it was only when I was doing some shelving last week I came across it and thought ‘THAT’S where I’ve seen that before’, read it, and went to see the film last Friday. It is one of the best books about mental illness I have ever read, the ending made me weep, the film is glorious and I have a feeling I’ve found my ‘discovery of 2012’. I am currently torn on awarding it, or Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility my favourite-debut-I’ve-read-this-year award.
The film is brilliant, it is romantic, hilariously funny, interesting to watch, Bradley Cooper Ruins All Men and Jennifer Lawrence deserves an Oscar for the way she makes her eyes go completely black and the shot where she opens a beer alone.
The ending is dreadful and as different from the book as to completely obscure to me what was the entire point of the novel.
In the film, Pat and Tiffany have scored an average of five at an open dance contest, allowing them to win the bet laid with Pat’s father’s friend saving Pat’s family from financial ruin and allowing Pat’s father to open a restaurant. Pat and Tiffany are united and kiss after Pat sees Nikki who has come to the dance contest with Veronica and Ronnie, Tiffany storms out thinking that Pat and Nikki will get back together, but Pat assures her he loves her and has done since he first met her. She never actually says she loves him.
In the book Tiffany is reconciled with Pat after his family refuse to let him see her after she lies to him about the letters being from Nikki, leading to him leaving the house on Christmas Day, being mugged and reunited with Danny (in the film they are friends throughout) and breaking his leg. Tiffany and Pat lie in a snow storm on a football pitch looking for clouds together and he realises that Nikki would never accept him as he is, and Tiffany does, she tells him she needs him and he says he thinks he needs her too.
Now I know it’s a Hollywood film starring Hollywood actors, and they therefore needed a weepy ending with no loose points, they needed the two to get together and for the family to have a positive looking future. But the point of the ending of the book as far as I saw it was that Pat comes to the realisation that his life isn’t perfect, it is never going to be, and that Tiffany doesn’t care or want to give him perfection, because she can only control the perfection she seeks for herself, she just wants to be with him. The book gave me hope that even though we can’t all have the big Hollywood Bradley Cooper ending, what we can do is meet someone as messed up as we are enough for the mess not to matter anymore.
I wouldn’t mind so much that they completely changed the ending of the book, if they hadn’t changed so very much else. Pat tells Cliff the reason he has been hospitalised straight away in the film, in the book Pat not knowing that he has been in a hospital for years or the reasons why he and Nikki are no longer together is a major point of dramatic tension that was expertly crafted, leaving Nikki as a red herring flavoured enigma; for a good part of the book I was convinced she was dead. I wouldn’t mind this either, but most people will now come to the book via the film which blatantly has Oscars written all over it, and this spoilers it massively.
And I also hated what they did with Pat’s dad. Robert De Niro is amazing, and I loved the character, the relationship he had with Pat’s mother, the family dynamic and the emotions he conveyed, but in the book Pat’s father’s inability to deal with his son’s mental health issues and subsequently his own is again a major plot feature and source of dramatic tension. Pat father’s has serious issues with anger that Pat recognises in himself after therapy, but the stigma towards mental health is such that Pat’s father refuses to recognise the similarities between himself and his son. This is a subject I majorly empathise with and I thought the way it is dealt with in the book in such a sensitive but real manor made me feel more aware of my own attitude to mental health, both my own and that of my family, and how hard it must be to be living in a world that won’t accept you or allow you to accept yourself. Again, I understand why they changed the character so much in the film, but De Niro is a good enough actor to convey the emotional trauma the book version of Pat’s father would have been going through, though it would not have made as light hearted a comedy vehicle which seemed to be the productions’ main focus.
I was not disappointed with the film, it is brilliant, everyone should see it, but I was disappointed that parts of the book that made it stand out from other feelgoods were lost in a quest to maintain an audience share, and that an opportunity to examine a world where there isn’t always Hollywood closure, as with mental health, was lost.