Saturday, November 4, 2017

Book or Movie? "Marry Me at Christmas"

I've often heard this saying, and I'm sure you have, too: "The book is better than the movie." While I've found that to often be the case, I can think of a handful of movies that I enjoyed more than the books that came before them. The Time Traveler's Wife is always the first example I think of, but I could come up with several others.

Now that Hallmark Channel has started showing Christmas movies, it's giving me ample opportunity to compare movies to the books they're based on.

As I settled in to watch Marry Me at Christmas, Hallmark's first original Christmas film of the season, last Saturday night, I noticed something in the opening credits: "Based on the novel by Susan Mallery." I quickly checked the Overdrive app, where I check out ebooks and audiobooks through my library, and I saw that the novel was available, so I checked it out, and then I settled in to watch the movie.

Here's how Hallmark describes the movie:
Organizing a Christmas wedding is a true treat for bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect dress for the bride and orchestrating an exquisite event. What Madeline didn’t expect was to be swept off her feet by the bride’s gorgeous brother, movie star Jonny Blake. Jonny came to the quirky town of Fool’s Gold to support his sister — not to fall in love. Yet Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. Madeline finds the real Jonny even more captivating than her celebrity crush. Will the action star be brave enough to take on the role of a lifetime? Starring Rachel Skarsten and Trevor Donovan.
Marry Me at Christmas (the movie) was ... OK. It definitely won't be going down as one of my favorite Hallmark originals, but it was also better than some. I enjoyed the story, the leads had good chemistry, and I loved the friendship that developed between Madeline and Ginger (Jonny's sister). I wondered, though, if the book would be better.

The answer is, sort of.

Many, many things were changed in the adaptation. This is normal, I know. In the book, Jonny Blaze (why the name change in the film?) has moved to Fool's Gold to get away from the craziness of LA. He owns a ranch and convinces his sister that it's the place to get married. Madeline gets recruited to help plan the wedding by the "no one can say no to her" mayor, and she knows from the beginning that she'll be working with Jonny.

I really enjoyed getting to know Jonny and Madeline as they worked together to plan the wedding. Their characters had a depth not present in the film, and their attraction was palpable. And therein lies the problem ...

Sexual content on the Hallmark Channel never goes beyond kissing, and I figured that Mallery's book would go a bit farther than that. I was happily surprised to find no sex scenes in the novel; however, Jonny and Madeline do begin sleeping together—it's just that those scenes are "closed door," so the reader knows what's happening, but it's not described on the page. I guess I can be thankful for that. But here's the thing: after Jonny and Madeline have sex, all of the romantic tension is gone. Sure, there's still a "boy loses girl" component (actually, it's more of a "girl runs away from boy" thing), but they were already together, and the rest of the story wasn't nearly as interesting. Maybe that's why Hallmark movies usually save the kiss for the last couple minutes.

There's also a fairly large focus on all of the things Madeline would like to do with Jonny physically—it's never explicit (and it's all in her thoughts), but the way things are stated is rather crude and cringe-inducing. There's a bit of language, too; it's not a lot, but there are several minor swear words.

Another thing that made reading the book difficult is that Marry Me at Christmas is part of Mallery's HUGE Fool's Gold series, and there are so many minor characters (who presumably had their own books at one point) that I eventually quit even trying to keep track. A quick check of Goodreads tells me that this is the 19th book in the series ... no wonder there are so many characters!

So ...

Book or Movie?

I have to go with movie by a hair—though the plot of the book is more developed and interesting, it's also more confusing to someone not familiar with the series. The movie is romantic while staying clean, and I very much appreciate that. (Movie: 4 stars. Book: 3-1/2 stars.)

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