In this lesson of Studying English with Movies, we’re going to take a look at a movie called, “Silver Linings Playbook.” This movie was recommended by a student of mine and was pretty popular a few years ago. It stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress. The story is a bit complex so I won’t go into the details, but the acting is fantastic and it is worth watching in my opinion.
So what can we learn from “Silver Linings Playbook”?
Let’s go through our checklist of steps.
Step 1: Choose the Movie
So why did I choose “Silver Linings Playbook”? Well, when I looked at the first three “Movie Study” blog posts, I realized that I chose two superhero movies and one animated fantasy. It was definitely time to choose a drama which centered around characters in the real world with real problems and challenges. These movies produce the most natural, or realistic dialogue, in my opinion.
Step 2: Choose a Scene
Despite the number of great actors and actresses in this movie, I wanted to choose a scene with the two main characters, Pat and Tiffany. They are in the movie the most and there were plenty of scenes to choose from.
In this scene, Pat and Tiffany meet for the second time while jogging in their neighborhood. In their first meeting, they exchanged some pretty personal information about each other which left Pat a little hesitant to see her again. Let’s watch the scene and please note his surprise when she bumps into him!
Step 3 (optional): Try Writing Down the Script (Dictation)
This is the longest scene we’ve had so far. Not to worry! It’s good to keep leveling up little by little.
If you are ready to try, go ahead and try writing down the script as you hear it. Don’t worry if you can’t understand every word! Instead, just write down the sounds you hear and you can check the script later.
Here is the script for this clip:
Pat: Whoa! Hey! What the hell?!
Tiffany: What happened to your face?
Pat: Weightlifting accident.
Tiffany: That sounds like bullshit. (Pause) Why’d you run by my house? [Did] Our little conversation get you upset last night?
Pat: Hey, this is my route, ok, just back off!
Tiffany: This is my neighborhood! You just ran by my house!
Pat: I like to run by myself, ok?
Tiffany: Me too!
Pat: Hey! I like to run alone! Will you stop? Ok?
Pat: I’m running here!
Tiffany: Me too!
Pat: Well then, why don’t you run somewhere else? There’s fuckin’ tons of roads to run in [on]. What are you trying to do?
Tiffany: I like this road. This is my neighborhood!
Pat: Oh, come on! Please!
Tiffany: Calm down, “crazy”!
Tiffany: Why are you–? (spits)
Step 4: Look Up any New Vocabulary
This is the most realistic movie with studied here so far in terms of the story and setting so it is expected that we would find more natural language, including some slang. Here are the words I would target as new vocabulary:
to back off
As you can see, I’ve highlighted two words (bullshit, fuckin’). These are slang terms that you probably won’t find in a regular dictionary. If you come across slang terms that aren’t in your dictionary, I recommend using Urban Dictionary to look them up.
Step 5: Find Common Sentence Patterns
The pattern I’d like to look at today is from Pat’s seventh line:
Pat is annoyed that Tiffany has chosen to run so close to him because he likes to run alone. Therefore, he strongly suggests that Tiffany runs in a different place than him.
The “key” to this sentence pattern is:
This pattern is used to make a suggestion. This phrase is commonly used in many different cases however in this case, it is a strong suggestion because of Pat’s tone and high level of annoyance.
“X” is the action that you want the listener to take.
Here are some other examples you could make with this pattern:
“Why don’t you visit the Empire State Building while you’re in New York?”
“Why don’t you practice the guitar in a different room?”
“Why don’t you leave me alone?”
The first two examples show simple suggestions, probably in response to someone who asked for advice.
A: How can I improve my English?
B: Why don’t you use movies to study English?
A: What should I do on my trip?
B: Why don’t you visit the Empire State Building while you’re in New York?
The second two examples show stronger suggestions, probably when the speaker is annoyed by something the other person is doing.
A: (playing his guitar loudly)
B: Why don’t you practice the guitar in a different room?
A: (bothering person B)
B: Why don’t you leave me alone?
Can you make your own sentences?
Please show me your examples in the “Leave a Reply” section below!
“Why don’t you ( X )?”
Step 6: Note How a Character Responds to a Question or Comment
In this dialogue, there are a few questions that are very specific to the context so it is a little hard to pull out general ideas. However, there is one response that we can look at that may be helpful to our English study.
Again, to review, in this scene, Pat is jogging by Tiffany’s house and she believes that he wanted to talk to her again. He is surprised to see her and is annoyed that she is following him. She sees a cut on his face and asks him:
Now in Tiffany’s mind, this answer is quite unbelievable or unlikely to be true. Therefore, the key question we want to examine is, “How does Tiffany respond to a comment she believes is unbelievable?”
“Bullshit” is another way to say “nonsense” or “garbage.” In other words, Tiffany is telling Pat that she believes that his answer is “nonsense.” She doesn’t believe him (It’s more likely that he cut his face in some other way).
So, how can we use this in our daily conversation?
If you believe someone has told you something that doesn’t make sense, or is unbelievable, unlikely, or ridiculous, you can respond with:
“That sounds like nonsense.” (Regular)
“That sounds ridiculous.” (Regular)
“That sounds unbelievable.” (Regular)
If someone you care about is saying something that is ridiculous, nonsensical, or untrue, it is to their benefit that you point it out for them.
Step 7: Note Natural Expressions
Let’s keep leveling up our English study with movies! Yes, we’re adding another step. One great thing about movies is that you’ll often find a lot of natural expressions that won’t appear in your textbooks. Often, they may be slang terms so you may need to use Google or Urban Dictionary to find the meanings.
In this dialogue, we can find a very natural expression right at the beginning. Pat is jogging and Tiffany runs up to him very suddenly and shouts, “Hey!”
Pat’s natural reaction is:
Actually, there are two expressions to look at here.
First, we hear that Pat says, “Whoa!” Remember that Pat is surprised by Tiffany. In fact, she came very close to making contact with him. If you are not expecting it, and something or someone is about to hit you or make contact with you, a natural reaction in English, is to say, “Whoa!”
Second, let’s look at “What the hell?!” After Pat realizes that it is Tiffany that has almost run into him, he is quite angry that she did that. To express his surprise and also his anger at her, he says, “What the hell?!”
So, those are the expressions I would pull out of this dialogue. If you are doing this by yourself, my advice would be to note down the expression, and as much of the context or situation as you can. Also, try to imagine the feelings the characters are experiencing at the moment of speaking.
You will start to see the same expressions in different scenes and in different movies. If you take good notes, you will start to see many similarities. This will be very valuable as you keep improving your English.
Studying movies is fun and can be very useful if you have an effective method. Follow these 7 steps when you want to study English from movies and I’m sure you will learn something that you can use right away!
Do you have any questions about this scene?
If so, please write it in the “Leave a Reply” section below and I will respond as soon as I can!