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Film / If There Be Thorns

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In 2015, Lifetime did a Made-for-TV Movie adaptation of the book.


Tropes associated with the movie include:

  • The '80s: It goes nearly unmentioned in the novel, but the movie plays up the setting a little more with fashions and technology—Bart has a handheld Donkey Kong video game; Corrine takes a Polaroid of the Sheffield boys; etc.
  • Accidental Misnaming/Malicious Misnaming: Madam Marisha calls Emma "Amy." It's not entirely clear which trope this actually is, but Emma takes it as Malicious Misnaming at any rate.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the books, both Jory and Bart take after their dark-haired fathers, and—particularly when they're older—there's said to be some resemblance been the two of them. In the movie, Jory is blond, while Bart is still dark-haired. This means Bart looks different from the rest of his family, visually reinforcing the idea of him as a Black Sheep.
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  • Adaptational Heroism: Bart threatening John Amos at arrowpoint.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The boys are aged up in the movie, so while Jory is 14 in the book, in the movie him and his girlfriend are discussing colleges. This means that the conflict between Cathy and Madam Marisha—Marisha threatens to expose the incest and get custody of Jory—falls a little flat. Jory is nearly a legal adult, and so custody of him will become a non-issue very soon, and regardless of where he's living, he's going to be leaving to go to college soon.
  • Adaptational Karma: John Amos gets an arrow through the chest.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: A relatively small but significant one for Chris. In the book, when Chris finds Cathy setting up beds in the attic, he calls her out on it in no uncertain terms, and refuses to let her change the subject. In the movie, this is way downplayed. It's also Chris who sends Bart to the attic after he tries to drown Cindy. This represents a significant change from the books, there it's Cathy who does that, while Chris lets Bart out as soon as he gets home and asks Cathy What the Hell, Hero?
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  • Adaptation Species Change: The pet Bart wants but his parents won't let him get is a snake, not a pony. The pet Corrine gets him is a snake, not a dog. Snakes Are Sinister, after all.
  • Affair Letters: Jory finds a letter Chris wrote to Cathy in the attic. Unique for this trope, it's not who the letter is between that's the issue—it's the mention of Cathy being 13, when they'd told Jory they didn't meet until they were adults.
  • Age Lift: Bart starts the movie at age 12 (age 9 in the book). Jory and Melodie, meanwhile, are on the brink of college (14 in the book). Cindy, meanwhile, is closer to 3 than 2.
  • Blatant Lies: Along with therapy appointment, the therapist meets with Bart's parents to get some background info.
    Therapist: Has there been any history of abuse, inversion, deviance, or mental illness in the family?
    Cathy: No, not at all.
  • Buy Them Off: Madam Marisha found out about Chris and Cathy a few years ago, and Chris has been bribing her to stay quiet ever since then. He did not tell Cathy about this, and now they're running out of money.
  • Call-Back: At the very end, Chris says he's gonna get some pie, which is a call back to the final scene of the previous movie, where Cathy mentions pie as his favorite.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name:
    • Both Bart and Jory call Chris "Dad" most of the time, only calling him "Chris" in moments of "I found out family secrets and I'm angry." They also really put emphasis on his name when they say it.
      Chris: [to Jory] Why are you calling me Chris?
    • Chris calls Corrine by her name when he sees her.
      Chris: Corrine.
      Corrine: Call me "Mother," and give me a hug.
  • Celebrity Resemblance
    Corrine: Lots of people resemble each other, it must be a coincidence. I've been told I look like Jean Harlow.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Cindy's birth mother dies of cancer, rather than a car crash as in the book. This is less in keeping with the reoccurring theme of deadly car crashes through the books, but more in keeping with the drawn-out framing of the event in which Cathy and Chris have time to argue about it.
  • Flashback: Bart reading Malcolm's journal is combined with flashback scenes of Malcolm writing it.
  • Group Hug: Chris, Cathy, and Jory are active participants in a hug after the fire. Bart is sort of reluctantly sandwiched in there.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Cathy and Chris have a "No Secrets Policy" for their family... need we say more?
      Bart: My dad's come up with a "No Secrets Policy" in our family.
      Corrine: He did? That's very ironic.
    • In the book, there is very little attention given to what Corrine thinks of Cathy and Chris's marriage. The one time she asks about it, she says, "But I'd understand"—she had her own incestuous marriage, after all. In the movie, however, she's weird about it.
  • Multitasked Conversation: Bart tries to drown Cindy, and then yells at his parents that
    Bart: No! I shouldn't! Brothers shouldn't love their sisters! Isn't that right, Chris?
  • The Peeping Tom: Bart sees both his brother having sex with his girlfriend, and his parents having sex. While there’s lots of voyeurism in the books, this scene specifically is an adaptation addition.
  • Psycho Psychologist: In the book, Bart's therapists are never sinister—the first one is helpful, and the second one is ineffective but benign. In the movie he is strapped to a bed and there is discussion of electroshock therapy. Cathy, thankfully, goes Mama Bear and protects him, insisting that shock therapy is off the table an staying with him at the hospital overnight.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Chris, as a doctor, is pretty disdainful of Madam Marisha's smoking.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Of course Corrine is both Chris and Cathy's mother in all versions. But in the book, they tell their kids that Corrine is Chris's mother, and that Cathy's mother is dead. This because Chris still considers her his mother—a bad mother, sure, but still his mother—and visits her in the asylum, while Cathy wants nothing to do with her. In the movie, they claim Corrine as Cathy's mother, while saying Chris's mother is dead.

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