The book versus movie debate: Girl Interrupted

I thought I would mix it up a little with this next choice. It’s a very different type of book/film than I have looked at before but it’s a choice that I wanted to include because I found it to be a very powerful read!

As always, I am going to begin with a little explanation of the book and the film for anybody that may not have read and/or watched Girl Interrupted.

Image result for girl interrupted book

Girl Interrupted: book

Girl Interrupted was first published in 1993 and is written by Susanna Kaysen. It is her memoir, telling her own story of being admitted to a psychiatric facility in the late 1960s. We join Susanna as she recounts her painful journey, introduces us to her fellow patients and offers an insight into the horrors she experienced.

Image result for girl interrupted film

Girl Interrupted: film

The film adaptation was released in 2000, directed by James Mangold. As with the book it follows Susanna and her time spent at a psychiatric institution. The film sees Winona Ryder portray Susanna and Angelina Jolie take on the role of Lisa, a fellow patient that Susanna befriends. This role resulted in an Academy Award for Jolie for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film garnered mixed reviews but Angelina Jolie was commended for her performance which, as stated above led to an Oscar win.

The film is described as being loosely based on the book and Kaysen herself was not too enamoured with how much her story was altered. This leads me to looking at the main differences between the two and attempting to answer the question: which is better? 

Image result for girl interrupted


I couldn’t help but notice that the film focuses a lot less on the other girls and their stories than the book does. In the book we gain much more of a sense of how the respective journeys of the other patients affects Kaysen and shapes her time within the facility. It is a shame that the film doesn’t follow this because reading the words had a powerful effect upon me as a reader and I’m sure it would have had the same effect if it had been translated onto the screen. I understand that the film is more condensed, indeed it has a run time of two hours and seven minutes, but I do feel that is enough time to honour the other girls as the book does. This was disappointing for me.


The basis of Kaysen’s story is her journey as a patient in a psychiatric facility and the book really hits home with how tight the security is in such a place. This is something that again is not honoured by the film. There are escapes and scenes of patients running riot in areas they wouldn’t be able to access. I appreciate that this could potentially have been done to increase excitement and action in the story but I find it frustrating personally. It’s not realistic and if the story that is being portrayed is a true one then I think it should be authentic. The film really isn’t in this aspect!


The hospital is far more foreboding and terrifying in the book than the film. It is a place full of fear in the book, somewhere that nobody would ever want to find themselves taken to! In the film however, it is portrayed as more of a retreat than a hospital and the feelings of dread and fear are far less strong than the book provides, even if they are there at all! This point frustrates me also, I don’t like the possible implication that Kaysen may have exaggerated in her descriptions!


The film follows a clear progression of time and is in chronological order whilst the book resembles more of a sporadic stream of memories spilling out. Again, a big difference but this time not one that gets me quite as frustrated as others on the list. I don’t mind which path is followed personally. Whilst I can appreciate that the irregularity can reflect the mental troubles, I can also appreciate that a clear timeline can help to tell a story more clearly so that the emotions can be the main focus.

So, there we are, the main differences that I have found between the book and film. Have you spotted any that I missed?

Image result for girl interrupted

Now, which is better?

No doubt you will have guessed my answer to this having read the post but just to confirm…I much prefer the book! I actually watched the film before reading the book and I can’t deny that I really enjoyed it! It was only when I was looking into it after watching it that I discovered it was a book originally. My enjoyment of the film is what prompted me to immediately buy the book. It became quickly apparent as I began reading that there were stark differences between the book and the film and as I became fully immersed I realised how much better the book is! The story is more real, hard hitting, devoid of any sugar coating and it leaves you with a sense of horror that isn’t easy to shake! I wonder if perhaps the film was more glamorised and, dare I say it ‘dumbed down’ to appeal to a wider audience or avoid causing offence? I’m not sure but either way, I believe if a person has experienced deep trauma and been brave enough to share their story then any adaptations should honour that as fully as is possible. The film is so far removed from the book that it almost feels like a different story just with characters that share the name of those in the book. So, for that reason amongst the others, I conclude that the book is better than the film.

Do you agree with my thoughts?

I hope you enjoyed reading my point of view. If you did then please check out the other installments in this series, the links are all listed at the end of this post.

Until the next time…Jess x

The book versus movie debate: A Walk to Remember

The book versus movie debate: The Devil Wears Prada

The book versus movie debate: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The book versus movie debate






4 thoughts on “The book versus movie debate: Girl Interrupted

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.