SPOILERS ahead for the Can You Keep A Secret? movie and book
The Can You Keep A Secret? movie makes a number of changes to the book by Sophie Kinsella, so we break down the biggest changes and what they mean. Hollywood has long adapted beloved books to both the big and small screens, taking familiar stories and bringing them to life in both live-action and animation for audiences of all ages. Some adaptations stick very close to the source material, while others make a lot of changes - for better or for worse. In the case of Can You Keep A Secret?, screenwriter Peter Hutchings and director Elise Duran manage to faithfully adapt the main story of Kinsella's book, with most of the biggest changes made to pare it down for a 90-minute movie.
Like Kinsella's 2003 novel, the Can You Keep A Secret? movie follows a young associate in the marketing department of a large sports energy drink company named Emma Corrigan (Alexandra Daddario). During a turbulent flight after a meeting gone wrong, Emma spills all her secrets to a stranger - but that stranger turns out to be Jack Harper (Tyler Hoechlin), one of the cofounders of her company. Emma's life is turned upside down by this man who knows all the humiliating details of her life - like the fact that she's never been in love despite being in a long-term relationship. But the wacky situation also brings Emma and Jack closer, allowing them to develop a relationship without any pretense, though it becomes increasingly clear that Jack's inability to open up is a roadblock to their future.
The basic story structure of the Can You Keep A Secret? movie remains the same as in Kinsella's book, hitting most of the same beats. As such, the majority of the changes made in the adaptation process are to other aspects, like the setting and supporting characters. Or the changes were made to cut down the length of the story in order to fit within the confines of a movie. Now, here are all the biggest changes made to the Can You Keep A Secret? movie from the book.
Can You Keep A Secret? Setting Is Changed From London to New York City
The most immediately obvious change made to the Can You Keep A Secret? movie is the fact that it's set in the United States versus the United Kingdom. In the book, Emma's meeting is located in Scotland, and is with an oil company, whereas in the movie her meeting is with a cruise company for older folks located in Chicago. Further, instead of living in London, Emma lives in New York City, which means she meets Jack on a plane from Chicago to New York.
As a result of this setting change, much of the smaller details in Can You Keep A Secret? are Americanized - like the fact that Emma shops at the NYC specific Beacon's Closet instead of Oxfam for her secondhand clothes. It's unclear why Hutchings and Duran changed the setting of the story to New York City, but it may have something to do with their own knowledge and having the movie appeal to U.S. audiences.
Panther Prime Becomes Panda Prime
Another big change from book to movie is the name of the company where Emma works. Instead of Panther Prime, she works for Panda Prime. This change in particular doesn't make much sense since Can You Keep A Secret? keeps the famous slogan that Jack Harper and his partner came up with: "Don't pause." It makes sense in the book when Panther is positioned as a type of sports company on the level of Puma and Nike. In fact, it could be said that the slogan in Kinsella's book resembles Nike's own "Just do it" trademark.
When the animal is changed to a panda, though, the "Don't pause" slogan doesn't make as much sense, especially since Can You Keep A Secret? positions the company as more health-conscious than aggressively active. It's unclear why exactly the name of Jack's company was changed to Panda Prime, but it doesn't work quite as well.
Emma's Family Is Cut Entirely From Can You Keep A Secret? Movie
Whenever a book is adapted into a film, there's bound to be casualties left on the cutting room floor. In the case of Can You Keep A Secret? the biggest casualty in the adaptation process is the subplot concerning Emma's family. In the book, Emma plays second fiddle to her older cousin Kerry, who came to live with Emma's family when she was young and her mother died. Emma's parents doted on Kerry, who grew up to become a successful business owner, while Emma struggled to stick with one career. However, when Jack disrupts Emma's life, both accidentally and intentionally revealing her secrets to the people in her life, he changes her family dynamic for the better.
It's a sweet subplot in the book, but is also the most easily excised to ensure the movie doesn't run too long. Can You Keep A Secret? does give a nod to that particular plot, though, when Cybill (Laverne Cox) references a corporate family day during Jack's first visit to the office - it's at that event in the book where Jack meets Emma's family.
Updated Pop Culture References
Since Can You Keep A Secret? was originally published in 2003, many of its pop culture references are out of date, and the movie works to update them. For instance, the song that makes Emma cry in the book is "Close To You" by Carpenters, but in the movie it's "Demons" by Imagine Dragons. And Emma's embarrassing bedspread in the book is Barbie themed, while in the movie it's My Little Pony.
More classic references were kept, though, like the novel Emma faked reading for her book club is still Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It certainly makes sense to update the pop culture references for the movie so it doesn't feel out of date, though some book fans may argue that "Demons" doesn't make quite as much sense as a song that'll make someone cry.
The Supporting Cast Of Can You Keep A Secret? Is More Diverse
In the book, most of the people in Emma's life are white men and women, but the Can You Keep A Secret? movie makes a concerted effort for the people in Emma's world to more accurately reflect modern day New York City. As a result, Emma's roommates Lissy and Gemma (Jemima in the book) are played by Sunita Mani and Kimiko Glenn, respectively. Cox plays Emma's boss Cybill, replacing Paul from the book and likely being adapted from the office manager character Cyril.
Further, Emma's crochet-loving work friend Katie is gender-swapped to become Casey (Robert King) - though the tidbit about a potential significant other using Casey to do house repairs remains the same. Even Lissy's dance partner is changed, becoming Omar instead of Jean-Paul. However, though the Can You Keep A Secret? movie is much more diverse, neither of the two leads - nor Emma's boyfriend Connor (David Ebert) - are part of this push to add more representation.
The Ending Is Set On A Plane, Not The After-Party
The third act of Can You Keep A Secret? plays out almost entirely the same in the movie as in the book. Jack catches Emma talking to the tabloid reporter hired by Gemma/Jemima and storms off, despite Emma protesting she'd never sell his secret. However, in the book, Jack returns to the party where this confrontation went down and he and Emma talk outside, with them walking around the garden as he tells her all his secrets. In the movie, Emma follows him to his flight to Chicago and sits in the first class seat next to him to give her apology speech. When she's forced to go to her seat in coach, Jack follows her and tells her his secrets. They kiss and Jack continues telling Emma all about himself.
This ending captures the same feeling as the book, but it manages to bring the story full circle, both with Emma's speech and by setting their reconciliation on a plane, bringing it back to where they met. This is perhaps the biggest change made to the Can You Keep A Secret? movie, but it also makes a great deal of sense and is arguably an even better ending than Kinsella's book.