*Since the following Book vs Film does feature in-depth analysis, please be aware: Here there be spoilers*
Over on my website, I posted, The Most Satisfying Read, that I had recently finished reading the book by Susanna Kaysen that spawned the movie Girl, Interrupted (1999). I knew that before doing that post that I wanted to do a book vs movie comparison, but upon learning that a fellow writer had a devoted section on his website just for this I wanted to make the future post into a guest post, he agreed, and thus this has become just that!
I’ve been a long-time fan of book versions of anything that made their way into film or television adaptations. Of course, there are a few instances where the movie does the book justice. This doesn’t mean I will go into a film hating it. To be honest, most things I won’t find out until after it was a comic book or a novel first. In the case of Girl, Interrupted I saw the movie first and then just this year read the book. Things sometimes come in that order, I guess, they’re supposed to.
The differences that I noticed:
- Daisy’s Death – In the movie it’s a pivotal scene, it is there that the movie version of Susanna seems to change and sees how sick Lisa really is. She seems destroyed that Lisa doesn’t care and that another person was ‘pushed’ to killing themselves. The book doesn’t give more than a paragraph to this. It’s news of hearing the Daisy had died. This entire scene of Susanna and Lisa going to Daisy’s home didn’t happen in the book. Lisa escaped many times.
- The movie made the location of the asylum come off as a ‘teen 90’s movie’ version of mental asylums. The book made the place feel much darker, scarier, and depressing.
- Added Scenes – If you’re looking for midnight romps in the tunnels or the girls breaking into the doctor’s files, they’re not in the book at all. I understand that scenes were added to most likely change the atmosphere into not as dark, but the book really captured it as it’s the memoir of Susanna and not the portrayal Hollywood did.
- One of the saddest things in the book that bothered me was how cold Lisa was. You could feel it with every page turn. A patient named Lisa Cody and she went back and forth; both being named Lisa, and both being diagnosed as sociopaths. At one-point Lisa escaped only to come back bragging how Cody was a real junkie now.
- Georgina Tuskin has a line in the movie about the CIA and her father. In the book, Georgina is dating another patient from the male ward. He had the CIA connects or said to have had them. I’m sure she was adapted to be a pathological liar and saying this was for condensing purposes. It made things flow easier.
Besides the little inaccurate details and descriptions, I loved and still love the movie. Angelina Jolie as Lisa was spot on. I loved it. She was scary, cold, and free. I saw an interview where she said playing Lisa was the freest, she’d ever felt, up to that point, playing a character. Though sick, Lisa, has a sense of freedom to her. The ward, in the book, is on lockdown, patrolled, and she always seemed to escape. She always seemed to get that bit of sunshine outside the walls where everyone else never could. Of course, sometimes she’d come back dazed or ‘out of it’. My heartbreaks thinking on the scene from the movie where Susanna finally blurts out her truths about her to her face and Lisa cries. I credit Jolie’s portrayal as to why I loved the character so much. Fantastic acting!
I really felt, by the end of the movie hopeful for the patients despite everything. I, like many others, wanted to know what happened to them. Luckily, the book explained some things. I loved that she got to see Lisa again in real life. Lisa had a little boy and was out of the institution. She seemed happy. She even joked about her stomach’s changes. Susanna kept in touch with her roommate from the ward as well. It was nice seeing another patient, at least in words, made it out.