On December 10th, 2021, Vertical Entertainment released the movie The Hating Game, a highly anticipated film based on Sally Thorne’s 2016 novel of the same name.
The Hating Game follows Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale) and Joshua Templeman (Austin Stowell), two bitter office rivals that compete at everything. From the Staring Game to the “You’re Just So…” Game, Lucy and Joshua are stuck in a constant battle of one-upmanship. When a dream promotion is announced, Lucy and Joshua embark on the biggest competition of their working relationship; however, as time progresses and their interactions increase, the line between love and hate is blurred, and Lucy and Josh begin to realize that they may not hate each other as much as they thought.
Film adaptations of a beloved book are always exciting – we get to experience the characters and scenes that we love on the big screen, right in front of our eyes! But there are always adjustments in scenes, acting choices, and plot structures that differentiate the film from the book.
Here are the top differences between The Hating Game book and The Hating Game movie!
1. Lucy and Josh’s Shared Office
In the film, the appearance of Josh and Lucy’s shared office space is starkly different from what is described in the book. Josh’s space is identical to what Sally Thorne describes. Josh’s office is extremely impersonal and cold. He is surrounded by cool tones and shades of gray, and everything is freakishly tidy and in its place. In a word: Josh’s office looks extraordinarily corporate.
Lucy’s side, on the contrary, is cluttered and very animated. Her office has a lot of her actual personality shining through; there are pictures hanging on her walls, artsy literature in her bookshelves, and inspirational mugs on her desk. However, Lucy in the book makes it a point to ensure that her office is as barren as Josh’s to avoid giving him further ammunition to use against her. She does not want to provide him a gateway into her interests.
Moreover, Thorne describes Lucy and Josh’s office space as a “cube of glass,” where every surface – walls, floors, even their desks – could be used as a mirror. In the movie, that element of the B&G company’s tenth floor is absent. Understandably, it would be difficult to film in a space where everything could be used as a mirror. Yet, it was definitely a loss to Josh and Lucy’s interactions, how they subliminally noticed each other’s movements even when they were not looking directly at each other.
2. Austin Stowell’s portrayal of Joshua Templeman
Sally Thorne’s characterization of Josh Templeman is that of someone who is incredibly feared in the company of Bexley and Gamin. He is stone-cold, hardly smiles, and he always leaves his subordinates crying in his wake. The only one that matches him punch-for-punch is Lucy Hutton, and it is through her influence that Josh warms up openly, not only to her, but to the reader. Josh is also depicted as shy to the point where he retreats into himself when faced with situations he would rather not be a part of, and so full of love and desire toward Lucy. There is a lot that endears us to Josh Templeman throughout the course of the book.
Austin Stowell is a great actor, and his portrayal as Josh Templeman was fun to experience. However, he did not completely fit the character that was described in The Hating Game book. Stowell’s Josh is livelier and goofier in his delivery, even when he was trading harsh insults with Lucy. Most of his time on screen depicts him with a half-smirk on his face, when Josh is supposed to inspire fear and anxiety among his colleagues and various people he comes across.
Translating such a cold character on screen, especially one as complex as Josh, would be pretty difficult since it is a completely different medium of entertainment. In the book, we relied on Lucy’s internal insight and perception of Josh to get to know him as a character. We would be missing that in the movie, for the most part. It makes sense that Stowell as Josh Templeman is a bit more active on screen.
3. Danny’s character assassination
Danny Fletcher in the book is a very charming, smart, and kind individual. Lucy and Danny’s brief relationship was one of the highlights in the early parts of The Hating Game. While Lucy kind of uses Danny to secure a date and avoid humiliation by Josh, she quickly comes to realize that he is a genuinely wonderful guy, and he really seems to care for her.
But Danny Fletcher in the movie is quite honestly a caricature of himself. It was as if the filmmakers wanted to broadcast him in neon colors as “DORK.”
There were some endearing qualities to him, like when he truly bonded with Lucy regarding a shared background in farming. Their first date was extremely sweet to witness as they got to know each other and laugh and create inside jokes. Danny was also very kind to her at the end of the movie, offering a listening ear to Lucy when she was upset with Josh.
However, the core of Danny’s character was lost in the overall socially inept person that Danny Fletcher became for the screen. We know that Lucy and Josh are endgame, but Danny was not supposed to contribute to the obviousness of that result. Danny’s novel character makes Lucy – and the readers – feel conflicted; he is, when compared to Josh, probably the “better guy” in regards to how he treats Lucy, even though we know that Lucy ultimately will choose Josh. We are supposed to feel torn about Lucy’s choice between the two men.
Movie Danny did not make us feel that at all, and they did his character dirty with how he came across on the screen.
4. “I don’t need any help to beat her”
Josh’s proclamation to Mr. Bexley was another big difference between the movie and the book, and this time it has to do with where this moment was placed.
In the book, Josh openly states this to Mr. Bexley in front of Lucy, and it does cause some conflict between the two of them that carries on through to the end. Additionally, this occurs before Joshua’s brother’s wedding, the sex, and the love proclamations.
On the contrary, in the movie, Josh says this to Mr. Bexley in private and Lucy happens to overhear without them realizing. This also occurs after they attended the wedding together and declared their love for one another.
This adds a whole new element of pain and drama to their story that was not present in the book. By including this phrase at the end, the final climactic drama shifts from the development of their relationship – and the impending interviews – to Lucy believing that Josh manipulated her into thinking he loved her, just to have an edge on her for the job interviews.
It is interesting to note how the placement of a phrase – verbatim to what was said in the novel’s text – influences the structure of the story.
5. Lucy learns to stand up for herself on her own
One of the parts of the The Hating Game movie that really stuck out was how Lucy learned to stand up for herself. In both the movie and the book, Lucy has a tendency to allow people to walk all over her, acquiescing to her subordinates’ unreasonable deadline extensions and performing demeaning tasks for the higher-ups. She only learns to stand up for herself later on, and the book and movie differ in how this happens.
In the book, Josh is somewhat harsh in his encouragement to Lucy. He goes as far as to answer a phone call from Lucy’s colleague that was most certainly going to wrangle more time for her deadline, forcing Lucy to deny her requests and step out of her comfort zone. Josh ultimately teaches Lucy the importance of saying “no” and sticking to your guns, and that you do not always have to be the Nice Guy.
Yet, in the movie, Lucy learns how to stand her ground and fight her battles on her own. A large part of her ability to argue her point stems from not only her position as an executive assistant, but also in how she readily trades quips with Josh. She is a naturally sharp and smart woman, and Lucy Hale does a great job bringing that to screen. But a lot of her big moments, such as when she yells at Anthony Templeman, or when she enforces deadline policy on Julie, is a result of her anger building up at the situation. It was as if Lucy just had not been angry enough to warrant defending herself (or others) from unjustness.
Josh mentions that he thought Lucy was a “spineless kiss-ass,” but unlike his novel counterpart, he plays a very small role in the development of her agency.
- Lucy appears to initiate the kiss that she and Josh share in the elevator. It was most definitely a mutual collision, rather than Josh abruptly kissing her himself.
- The Hating Game movie limits Josh’s dress shirts to five colors, rather than the two weeks’ worth of color coordination that Lucy describes in the book. Where is the mustard yellow shirt??
- Okay, but honestly… What was with the Smurf fanfiction? Comic relief about one’s Smurf collection is one thing, but Lucy writing fanfiction about Smurfs to denote her love of them was a little over the top.
Were there any other differences between The Hating Game book and movie that you caught?
The Hating Game is out now – watch the trailer here.