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The Adaptation Blog: PS I Love You
Many of the key concepts of texts being geared towards American audiences, the Americanisation of texts can often replace vital points of the original story, substitute locations, characters and often key elements within the plot argues Sophie Atherton

The production rights of novels that are adapted are often bought by large American
film companies nowadays, this ultimately targets American audiences over
alternatives. With the American media being such a dominant force in the majority
of the world’s markets, Hollywood and American film companies possess a huge
influence over adaptation of books into films. Thus with many of the key concepts of
texts being geared towards American audiences, the Americanisation of texts can
often replace vital points of the original story, substitute locations, characters and
often key elements within the plot.

A good example of this is P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern. This, along with all of
Cecelia’s books, is set in Ireland due to her Irish heritage and follows Holly’s journey
in adapting her life after the early death of her husband. The book received great
publicity and commercial success despite mixed reviews and is the first of Cecelia’s
novels to be adapted into a film. When it was chosen by American production
company Alcon Entertainment to be made into a film, the author Cecilia Ahern gave
director and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese free reign in adapting her book for
the big screen, stating; “I saw the book as my baby and the film as being Richard’s

This stance has left a noticeable gap between the film and book, as while the
premise of the book is the same they communicate different characters, attitudes
and representations. While nothing major has been changed – it focuses on the
aftermath of Gerry’s death and the letters he left behind, it is the sheer number of
minor alterations from the book that make the entire narrative change considerably
and “Americanise the book”.

Firstly, the film is set in New York with American actors and actresses instead of
Ireland and with Irish actors. This change of location was to make production more
practical for an American movie, and American audiences. However, in order to keep
Ireland within the film, LaGravenese decided to keep Gerry’s character Irish and
have the characters visit Ireland on holiday a poignant motive to the original narrative
and setting of book.

Secondly, there is a broader selection of characters within the book, many of which
have been removed due to keeping the length of the film relatively short at just
over 2 hours long. This removes a great additional cost whilst keeping the essential
characters from the book. On reading the book, there are many characters taken out
of the film that could have added a great deal, such as Holly’s additional siblings.
However, as they don’t impact greatly on Holly’s journey and the parts that they do
are easily altered, it seems that no essential characters were left out. Additionally, a
smaller cast provides an easier narrative with fewer complications for the audience
to consider.

Thirdly, as the book is written for women, the film follows suit. Despite this, films that
fall into the ‘chick-flick’ category have to abide by the rules of the genre. Primarily, the couple must be mismatched. Thus making it all the more remarkable when their
relationship succeeds. The opening of the movie sets this condition up, as Holly and
Gerry enter arguing about their contrasting views on having children.

The next rule it abides by is that the man is always wrong. An example of this is
again, the first scene, where Gerry said the wrong thing to Holly’s mother about
them having a child which is the cause of the argument, he thus apologises for being
wrong. Ensuing this is that the narrative has to be talked over with her friends; she
talks of her grief and her inability to move on with them before talking over her issues
of abandonment with her mother, which is an added issue not within the novel.

Following this there is always a break-up; as Holly can’t have this break up with
Gerry, she fulfils this rule by breaking up with her friends. The reason for this is
caused by the subsequent rule, a break in the narrative equilibrium; a misfortunate
event. Holly finds out that one of her best friends is getting married and the other is
having a baby, making her feel like they are moving on and leaving her to dwell in
her grief for Gerry alone. Shopping and fashion becoming a main feature within the
film makes the next rule, and this is achieved by Holly becoming a shoe designer,
another Americanized quality added by LaGravenese.

And finally, the last rule defines the outcome of the journey. This should give the
audience something to think about once it’s finished. Firstly, she could get with the
original man; not really an option for Holly when he is dead. Secondly, she could get
with an even better man; this is hinted at within the film with regards to William but
not made final. Which leaves the last option that the film chooses for Holly to follow;
the character becomes more empowered, independent and has a much better,
happier life because of it. Holly now has a career she loves, a better relationship
with her friends and family and the possibility of romance is on the horizon, a very
satisfying ending for the audience.

These rules are enforced by the Americanization of the books narrative into film. Of
course, some of these scenes are in the book; Holly discussing her grief with friends
and family, her friends moving on and the final scene is not dissimilar to the outcome
of the book. But the other scenes that contribute to the rules have been produced
in the process of Americanisation. The opening scene is to create a fondness and
attachment towards the two characters and their relationship and as for the influence
of fashion and shopping; it is rarely mentioned within the book with the exception of
the occasional shopping trip.

P.S. I Love You is not the first and is certainly not the last British book to be
Americanized, thus much of the changes above should be expected for many future
adaptations. The film grossed a total of $6,481,221 in its opening weekend, proves
that film was well received and popular just like the book. However, the changes
create almost a different story all together; without comparison to the book, the film
is well constructed and entertaining. But when the book is taken into consideration,
the adaptation falls short. The book is a much deeper and more emotional read,
providing readers with in-depth characters and situations; the film is a very simplified
version of the book. Fans of Cecelia should not be disheartened by this as they are
both good stand-alone texts. But, the failure to accurately adapt the book offers the
debate; can an Americanized adaptation ever be “accurate”? With Where Rainbows
End, another of Cecelia’s books, due to be released as another American adaptation
in 2013, we shall soon see.

Sophie Atherton is a young writer based at York St John.