The movie was well-cast, well-acted, and rose way above the typical rom-com. And yet… it was, in the end, a “dance movie”. Why do movies insist on acting like dancing will heal everyone’s problems?
Without going into a lot of detail about how the book differed from the movie, I’ll just say this: the dance part happens in the middle, not the end. Pat and Tiffany have issues that can’t just be danced away.
What I loved about this book: Pat Peoples is an amazing character. He’s not perfect, and he’s not terribly smart, but he’s someone you’ll care about. I love the way he thinks about literature. I love that he cries. And that he loves his wife. And that he cares about his mother. And that he’s working towards “being kind, not being right”. I like that he thinks about what it means to be mentally ill, and how people with problems are treated by society. And what it means to be a friend.
The movie does a nice job of conveying those things, but the book does it better.
Somehow the book did a better job of not only helping me understand Pat, but also making Tiffany likeable. She’s not the main character, so you don’t have to love her, and you don’t even have to understand her. You just have to sympathize. I found that easier to do in the book than the movie, mainly because the book doesn’t revolve around the dancing quite so much. Mom is also a more interesting character in the book.
There’s a lot of football in this book, which was a good thing — except while I love football, I hate the Eagles. Both the book and the movie made me dislike them even more. Eagles fans seem just fine with beating non-Eagles fans to a pulp. No, they celebrate it. Yes, my Redskins have a racist name that bothers the hell out of me – but in general I like our fans. It’s not easy being a Redskins fan, but at least my life doesn’t revolve around whether they win or lose (although some Sundays it seems to).
This book is funny, smart, romantic and thought-provoking, all in the guise of a rom-com type read. It never takes itself too seriously even while dealing with serious subjects. One of my favorite parts is where Pat gives us his version of the dance movie montage (he has to learn the word first from his therapist).
So except for confirming my perception that Eagles fans are basically thugs (the only one that isn’t is the guy who spent years in a mental institution), I liked everything about this book.
In fact, if I wanted to compare this book to something I’ve read recently, I couldn’t. It’s just different. You have to like a book where a “dumb jock” reads The Bell Jar and appreciates it.
Pat says he’s living the movie of his life, and he expects it will come out happy. Only everyone around him says that life doesn’t work that way. It’s this back and forth about what it means to live in the real world and be a good person, that makes this book so worth the read.