Thursday, January 28, 2021

Movie and TV adaptations are different from the books. Comparing A Christmas Exchange with Molly Cooper's Dream Date by Barbara Hannay

A Christmas Exchange and Molly Cooper's Dream Date poster

Fair warning, this post is going to very spoilery if you either haven't watched the movie, A Christmas Exchange or read the book, Molly Cooper's Dream Date by Barbara Hannay. If you don't want any spoilers because you are planning on doing either or both, click off now. I have other stuff you can read that are fun too.

I thought I would do this comparison because I've recently watched the movie (I wanted to watch it since it sounded cute), and after watching the movie, I read the book. I'm one of those people who aren't fussed about differences between a screen adaptation and the original book. I kinda tend to roll with it and accept that there will be differences to make the book story work as an on-screen story. Obviously, they are two very different mediums, and conveying action and emotion are very different between the two. For the most part, by the time something lands on-screen for me to watch, it would have been years and years since I've read the book, and I've forgotten much of the detail, and I tend not to reread books (no time, too many books!). I would tend to remember the gist of the storyline but not the specific details like what bottle of wine they drank at dinner and what dress she wore on their first date. Therefore, I am one of those weirdos who tend to enjoy the screen adaptations.

London Eye

With A Christmas Exchange, after I saw it being promoted (and it looked so cute), I wanted to watch it since it was set during Christmas time, and I was in the mood for a Christmas movie. I enjoyed the movie a great deal. I thought it was sweet, charming, romantic, entertaining, and the actress who played Molly was adorable. Patrick was lovely too.

After watching the movie, I decided to seek out the book to read because I wanted to see if it was any different. Whooooo!!!! It's DIFFERENT. VERY different. I'm gonna say, if you've read the book and you remember it well, you might be quite shocked at how different it is. SOOOOOOO different. When I told Steve about the differences, his response was that there would be no way anyone could claim plagiarism. Honestly, if I didn't know the movie was based on the book, I would never have guessed.

Okay, here's the part where it gets spoilery, so look away if you don't want to know.

Lying on beach in hammock

For starters, the setting. In the movie, Molly lives in a small town in Connecticut, and it's wintertime. Everything is draped in snow and twinkling lights. It's very festive and exactly how I picture a white Christmas. In the book, Molly lives on Magnetic Island, which is an island of the Australian Queensland coast, near the Great Barrier Reef. It's a tropical island with beaches and lots of Australian wildlife. The book is set in April through June which while winter is Australia is still rather warm on a tropical island. It's certainly warm enough for Patrick to go swimming and diving in the ocean.

With Molly herself, in the movie, Molly is an editor for a newspaper or some kind of publication that is being shut down so she's recently lost her job. She has dreams of becoming an editor for a publishing company, and the whole being an editor and working on editing a book is a big part of the plot where she goes to a large publishing house to try to get an internship for the time she's in London. She gets to meet her favorite author while at the publishing house, makes a fool of herself fangirling, and somehow through another chance encounter, gets asked by the author to read and give feedback on her latest manuscript. The author plays a rather large role in Molly's life in London.

In the book, Molly works at a resort, and she's taken a three-month leave of absence to go live in London. While she's away, the resort hires someone to do her job. When in London, after spending a little time sightseeing, she gets a part-time job at a pub where she works and gets to make some extra spending money, so she doesn't blow through her savings.

English pub with Beer

What else is different? In the movie, a large part of the plot also centers around the romance between Molly's parents, whom she lost while young. Her grandmother has spent Molly's entire life filling her with stories of how they met and fell in love in London. Molly goes in search of her father's roots to learn more about him and his life. Instead of finding confirmation of the stories she's been told all her life, she finds her father's best friend while growing up, who now owns a pub. The best friend is delighted to meet Molly and regales her with stories and photographs of her father and how her father and mother met. None of it is like what she's been told, and her dreams are shattered, and Molly is devastated. Molly turns to the famous author turned mentor and sort of friend, and discovers that the stories she's been told are actually taken from one of this author's books, and her grandmother had lied to her the whole time. You don't find out why since her grandmother has passed away recently.

In the book, Molly manages to find the address of the house where her father lived as a child and goes to visit that place. There, as she stands in front of the house trying to imagine her father's life growing up, she meets an elderly lady who has lived in the house next door for decades and knew her father growing up. She gets invited in to chat and have tea while being told many stories of her father as he was growing up. There's nothing about a romantic story of how he and her mother met and fell in love.

A Christmas Exchange Molly and Andy

Another thing that's very different, and I do like the diversity included in the movie, are Molly's best friends. In the movie, Molly's best friends are Jim and Andy, who own and run a farm next door to Molly, and Molly helps out on the farm. Molly owns a dog, and Jim and Andy are meant to look after the dog (he's an adorable dog) while she is away, but Harry the dog bonds with Patrick, and Patrick ends up looking after Harry. Both Jim and Andy are men of color and are in a relationship and in the process of trying to adopt a child. I love those details about Jim and Andy as they get to know Patrick, and Patrick becomes a part of their lives too.

In the book, Molly's best friend is a woman, Karli, who is married, and not far into the book, she moves away to Cairns with her husband because he's been offered a job there. It's a better future for them. Karli does meet Patrick once and writes to Molly to tell her how handsome Patrick is but other than that, there's little interaction between Karli and Patrick.

London Underground

With so many differences, you're probably wondering what's the point of even adapting the book to a movie? Well, there are similarities too. Patrick's character is kept pretty much as he is written. He is a banker who is burned out by his job and needs a break. He also wants to write a banking thriller (banking is not thrilling!) and ends up writing a non-fiction financial how-to book instead. He also definitely does the whole botched meeting pretending to be Peter thing, and the movie ends much the same way as the book with Molly waiting for Patrick at the airport and then going home after not seeing him only to find that he's changed his flight to be around to see Molly upon her return.

Another thing that's similar, and it's a small thing, is Molly's fear of the Tube. In the movie, Patrick helps her overcome her fears and helps her to navigate the Underground. In the book, Patrick enlists the help of his mother to do it. Much of this, I think, has to do with when the book was written because back then, texting and instant messaging was not as much a thing, and the book was predominantly written in emails and journal entries, and not real time instant messages as we have now.

Patrick also helps Molly to find local places to enjoy that are not touristy. In the movie, Patrick sends Molly a list of places to explore while in the book, Patrick mails Molly a book. Molly uses that book to explore London.

Patrick and Molly A Christmas Exchange

Of course, the biggest similarity between the movie and the book is the moment when Molly finds out that Patrick was lying to her and pretending to be Peter while he was Patrick. Molly's devastation in both movie and book are heartwrenchingly real. Molly gets mad, very mad at Patrick, and sends him away. In both the movie and the book, Molly turns to her best friend for advice, and in both instances, the reason that maybe she overreacted and perhaps she should have given Patrick the chance to explain instead of banishing him.

To be honest, in this case, I prefer the movie over the book. In the movie, things progress at a good clip between Molly finding out Peter is Patrick, her being upset, getting advice, thinking things through, and deciding to work things out with Patrick. In the book, the whole thing drags out for an eternity (almost half of the book) with Molly overreacting, being angry, blaming Patrick, wallowing in misery and self-pity, etc., etc. That part in the book seemed interminable. This was a part where the movie was definitely better than the book.

The only reason I can give such a detailed breakdown between the differences of this one movie and book is because I watched the movie then a few days later read the book. They were both fresh on my mind. I enjoyed both, but I think I enjoyed the movie a little better than the book only because of Molly's wallowing after she finds out about the whole Patrick/Peter thing.


There is no way I can give such a comparison to anything else I've watched or read. I'm in the process of watching the Bridgerton series right now. A friend of mine said that there's no way she could watch the series no matter how well done it is because she's read the books, and it will make her so mad if she even sees the slightest difference between the show and the book. It's been a long time since I've read the books, and I have no plans on reading them again, so I'm enjoying the show for what it is. A fun story with beautiful sets, costumes, and people. I'm not going to get upset with the modern take on the story, the inclusion of people of color, and I most definitely am not going to get all bent out of shape over that one particular scene between Daphne and Simon that people are outraged over though I wish they would stop spewing their outrage all over the internet, so it doesn't ruin the show for those of us who did not binge-watch the series in a day. I am steadfastly ignoring Facebook posts, internet articles, and opinion pieces on the show until I'm done watching it because I'm determined to avoid as many spoilers as I can.

Do I have a point with this whole post after pointing out all the similarities between the movie and the book? Only that I get that they will be different, and the show writers who are writing the screenplay adaptation have their reasons for doing what they do. I don't know what they are. Mostly, it doesn't bother me, and I try to enjoy the show for what it is if I've read the book and if not, then it's all new to me anyway.

Do you watch movie or show adaptations? Or do you prefer to read the book? Do you do both, and what do you think of the differences when you spot them?

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