Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Set in the changing world of the late 1960s, Susanna Kaysen's prescribed "short rest" from a psychiatrist she had met only once becomes a strange, unknown journey into Alice's Wonderland, where she struggles with the thin line between normal and crazy. Susanna soon realizes how hard it is to get out once she has been committed, and she ultimately has to choose between the world of people who belong inside or the difficult world of reality outside.
The Worst Film Ever
A Disappointing Continuation
I cannot think of one single thing that I would change about this film. The acting is incomparable, the directing deft, and the writing poignantly brilliant.
By the time the dramatic fireworks start popping off, each one feels earned.
James Mangold's "Girl, Interrupted" is the best film that I have seen about disabled people since "Rain Man" (1988) but the key difference between those two films is that this movie is based on true events. The movie stars Winona Ryder as Susanna Kaysen who wrote the book that this movie was adapted from and it talks about her time and experience in a mental hospital in the 1960's but at first it isn't that easy for her to make many friends. During her first few days the only person she really trusts is the supervising nurse named Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg) whose job is very difficult and Goldberg's character is the polar opposite of Nurse Ratched who was played by Louise Fletcher in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975). As her time in the hospital progresses Susanna meets a girl named Georgina (Clea Duvall), and then meets a girl who everyone really gets annoyed with and despises at times is a girl named Lisa (Angelina Jolie) who has a really bad attitude. Then in one scene we see Kaysen's boyfriend named Tobias Jacobs (Jared Leto) who is trying to sneak Susanna out of the hospital but Susanna refuses. Other friends that Susanna happens to make are girls named Daisy (Brittany Murphy), Polly (Elisabeth Moss) and others. The reason why Susanna Kaysen was sent to the hospital in the first place was because she was very suicidal which she was sent there by a psychiatrist named Dr. Potts (Jeffrey Tambor). The other doctor in the mental hospital has a very weird last name and her name is Dr. Wick (Vanessa Redgrave), the movie has an excellent cast and great performances throughout which are so good because it really makes you empathize with each and every one of the characters and we feel like we are actually there getting to know them. As the great Roger Ebert once said that "For me the movies are a machine that generates empathy, it helps to understand hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us." and that is exactly how I felt with this and many other movies. Despite this movie being one of the best films of 1999 it isn't the very best movie that James Mangold ever directed (that would be "Walk the Line" (2005) which also happened to be a biopic). James Mangold has done a very good by making this movie just focus on the characters and their feelings instead of just shedding a bad light on them as people even though we know their problems are bad just like Barry Levinson did with "Rain Man" 11 years before this movie was made. This was a truly great movie but as a warning it might only be worth watching once.
In 1967, 18 year-old neurotic and volatile Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder), who attempted to commit suicide by downing a bottle of vodka and a bottle of aspirin, is rushed to a local hospital. Not only is her family life an unhappy one (despite the family's influence), but also she is confused as what to do with her life. She is in denial about her motives, and is also promiscuous. After she has survived emergency medical care, she is sent to Claymoore, a psychiatric institution in Belmont, Massachusetts. As Susanna stays for one and one-half years, her outside life has become interrupted. (Actually the title emanates from Vermeer's 17th century painting.)The hospital staff is headed by an administrator who appears to be a caring and decent man, Dr. Melvin Potts (Jeffrey Tambor) and an intelligent but detached psychiatrist Dr. Sonia Wick (Vanessa Redgrave). The supervisor on the ward is hardened nurse Valerie Owens (Whoopi Goldberg). Valerie calls Susanna "a lazy, self- indulgent little girl who is driving herself crazy."Placed in a women's ward, Susanna eventually receives her diagnosis: "borderline personality disorder." She is ambivalent and seems to deserve what she gets even though one knows that she does not really belong in Claymoore. When she tells boyfriend Toby (Jared Leto) that she has friends there, he replies, "They are eating grapes off the wallpaper." But Claymoore seems to give her the structure that she needs. Earlier, a nurse had warned her, "Do not drop anchor here." When tragedy ultimately strikes one of the inmates, Susanna seriously begins to self-examine herself and begins to cooperate with the therapists. Mentally she becomes less confused and healthier, and starts writing about her experiences. Although her book became the basis for the movie, the latter unfortunately takes many liberties. The movie, about behavior and character, is told dramatically via a series of episodes. These events include: female patient interactions; the girls breaking into the main office after hours and reading individual files; the Christmastime trip to the ice cream parlor; exercise classes; the attempt to escape; the final melodramatic confrontation in the basement. In reality, some of these events never really happened but were added in by Hollywood for dramatic effect. The other women Susanna meets at the hospital include: Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie) – a rebel misfit, sociopath, and reckless; manipulative and cruel; doesn't care whom she hurts; becomes Susanna's friend. Georgina Tuskin (Clea Duwall) – a shy and withdrawn person; suffers from schizophrenia; lives in the Land of Oz; doesn't really want to leave Claymoore; diagnosed as "pseudologica fantastica," a pathological liar; Susanna's roommate. Polly Clark (Elizabeth Moss) – a schizophrenic but kindly burn victim who is also depressed with her face; will never leave Claymoore; called "Torch" by Lisa. Daisy Randone (Brittany Murphy) – a deeply troubled individual with an anxiety disorder; harbors a dreadful secret. Janet Webber (Angela Bettis) – an anorexic ballerina; easily irritated; called "Fatso" by Lisa. Cynthia Crowley (Jillian Armenante) – a mentally-disturbed lesbian; severely depressed. Winona Ryder, who bears more than just a physical resemblance to the author of the book, is expressive and skillful at projecting mental states. She is always good. Angelina Jolie drives the movie and gives it life. Her demeaning of those around her left her a cold heart, dead inside. Jolie's haunting performance won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Despite some film flaws, there are the strong presentations by an impressive cast of highly talented young actresses. Also, the script contains some sharp insights into the complexities of mental illness.
Girl Interrupted (1999): Dir: James Mangold / Cast: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall: Misguided film about intrusion of the mind and those disturbances that hinder our daily functions. Winona Ryder is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and spends two years in an institution. She should have been diagnosed with worse than that for agreeing to be part of this exercise in shame. She has flashbacks to a past relationship and an affair with a married man. None of this is dealt with properly. This is actually about her friendship of sorts with an insane sociopath named Lisa. It displays an institution where patients seem to come and go as they please, which leads to a night of bowling. Director James Mangold gives insight but his Copland is a much better example of his work. The only performance that rings true in this formula crap fest is Angelina Jolie. She steals the film as Lisa, but Ryder never seems to be there. We never really buy into Ryder's release in its hokey happy finale. Whoopi Goldberg as a caregiver is a prop that seems like the umpteenth detail stolen from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Brittany Murphy and Clea DuVall are amongst those who play fellow patients. The theme is handled too lightly to take seriously in its disruption of the mind and the road to sanity. Score: 3 ½ / 10
Directed by James Mangold (COPLAND, THE WOLVERINE) and starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, GIRL INTERRUPTED is the adaptation of Susanna Kaysen's memoir about her time spent in Claymoore for attempted suicide. While I do feel like it is a good film, if a little unspectacular or by-the-numbers, I've never liked Winona Ryder that much. She acquits herself nicely here, but her character is rather vanilla and bland, especially compared to the colorful cast of characters she meets while institutionalized. The most interesting (and most developed) of these is Lisa, played by Angelina Jolie. While she might be better known as a movie star than as a serious actress these days, this performance came before all of that and, in my opinion, is one of her best. In fact, she gives the best performance in the entire film. In terms of thematic content, there are a lot of things said about insanity and mental health. Also, given the time period of 1967-1968, one could infer commentary on the state of America's mental institutions, especially as they applied to women. There's also some subtle commentary on the Vietnam War, although not to a great extent since that wasn't the main focus of the story. Whatever thematic goals the film may have had, however, pale in comparison to the character work and ensemble cast. As a portrait of life in a mental institution during the late 60's, I thought it was very effective, humorous and occasionally poignant. Brittany Murphy also had a small role as a character who is involved with one of the film's more serious moments. There are a couple more things that I thought about while watching this, one of them amusing and the other quite tragic. The first is a part of the film when Lisa and Susanna escape with the intention of going to Florida and getting jobs at the newly established Disney World. Lisa wants to be Cinderella, which is kind of funny considering that just last year Angelina Jolie played Maleficent for Disney. Not quite the same, but still interesting. The other, and which is a bit of a spoiler, is that Brittany Murphy would eventually meet a tragic end like her character in this film. Anyway, this wasn't some brilliant expose of mental institutions but it did function especially well as a character study. Winona Ryder's character was a bit bland, but only because she was completely upstaged by everyone around her. Recommended, but mostly for Angelina Jolie's performance.