This post originally appeared on Book Riot back in February. It didn't do as well as I hoped then, so I'm resurrecting it here.
Plot-wise, it’s easy to tell when a movie deviates from the book on
which it’s based. But is it as easy to spot when the screenwriter
slightly tweaks a line of dialogue or narration from a novel? Here’s a
look at five important, semi-famous, or memorable lines in movies
compared to the same line in the novel.
1. Gone With the Wind
Movie line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Book quote: “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Comments: This is the most well-known example of dialogue deviating
from the book. I like the book version better — it’s clearer, starker,
and more succinct. Frankly, “frankly” is redundant. This is the most
important scene in the story, so of course, Rhett’s being frank.
2. Wonder Boys
Movie line: “She was a junkie for the printed word. Lucky for me, I manufactured her drug of choice. ”
Book quote: “…my lover was an addict, and I was a manufacturer of her particular drug of choice.”
Comments: Subtle difference here, but I like the movie line a lot
better — delivered by Michael Douglas playing a novelist named Grady.
There’s something about the phrase “junkie for the printed word” that is
really descriptive and concrete — or at least much more so than just
“addict.” This is my favorite quote in the movie, and while Michael
Chabon conveys the idea admirably in the novel, the screenwriter took it
took the next level.
3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Movie line: “I want you to help me catch a killer of women.”
Book quote: “I want you to help me identify a murderer.”
Comments: This is a turning point scene: the beginning of Mikael
and Lisbeth’s collaboration. The line (delivered by Daniel Craig in the
film) is how Mikael hopes to get Lisbeth to help him with the Vanger
case. In the film, the screenwriter makes much more explicit the
connection to Lisbeth’s hatred of those who prey on women. Therefore, it
only takes a few words to reveal a ton about Lisbeth’s complicated
character. So it’s a very good re-write for the movie.
4. The Shawshank Redemption
Movie line: “You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They
say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A
warm place with no memory.”
Book quote: “You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They
say it has no memory. And that’s where I want to finish out my life,
Red. In a warm place that has no memory.”
Comments: Unbeknownst to his friend Red, Andy Dufresne is wistfully
talking about what he plans to do when he breaks out of jail. The line
is about escape not just from jail, but also from his past and the
horrific time he’s spent at Shawshank. This quote really cuts to the
core of Andy’s character — and the screenwriter (thankfully!) left it
mostly untouched (and it’s even possible that the difference is due to
how Tim Robbins delivered the line, not how it was written in the
script). Much of the more clever and/or meaningful dialogue (Hadley:
“What is your major malfunction, you fat barrel of monkey spunk?”) in
the movie is invented by the screenwriter, so I was heartened to see
this line left largely unchanged from Stephen King’s novella.
5. The Descendants
Movie line: “My friends on the mainland think just because I live in
Hawai’i, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation — we’re all just
out here drinking mai tais, shaking our hips, and catching
waves. Are they nuts? How can they possibly think our families are less
screwed up, our heart attacks and cancers less fatal, our grief less
devastating? Hell, I haven’t been on a surfboard in fifteen years. For
the last 23 days, I’ve been living in a ‘paradise’ of IVs and urine bags
and endotracheal tubes and six-month-old US magazines. Paradise?
Paradise can go fuck itself.”
Book quote: “The tropics make it difficult to mope. I bet in big
cities you can walk down the street scowling and no one will ask you
what’s wrong or encourage you to smile, but everyone here has the
attitude that we’re lucky to live in Hawaii; paradise reigns supreme. I
think paradise can go fuck itself.”
Comments: In both cases, I love how the writers (the novel is by
Kaui Hart Hemmings) chose to dispel the false notion of paradise. The
screenwriter’s is a little more clever and descriptive, and Clooney
nails the delivery (given in narrated voice over). The screenwriter
chose a little bit of a different angle to approach the topic of
“Hawaiian unhappiness,” but Hemmings’ works just as well.
punctuate the notion with a guffaw-inducing finale. Well done, both!
So have you noticed any differences between movie lines and book quotes? I’d love to hear about them — please share them below.