Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It is too obvious to call this a girls' One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. For one thing, the psychiatric hospital is privately run, which ensures a better class of fruitcake, a more understanding regime and certain privileges - pets, boys, cigarettes.

The period is the Sixties, when change was skylarking through convention and causing all kinds of havoc. Being 17 in '67 was like receiving the keys to utopia. Suddenly, everything was possible. The old rules were breached, the new rules had yet to be installed.

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Susanna (Winona Ryder) slips through the cracks. "Have you ever confused dreams with life?" she asks, not expecting a reply. She sleeps with the wrong men too many times and swallows a bottle of asprin. No, she says, she wasn't... trying to... whatever they thought.

She comes from an upper-middle-class family, where connections matter more than love. She knows she's dancing on wire. It is a feeling of no ends and no beginning. They call it, Borderline Personality Disorder. She signs herself into the hospital. She is so uncertain and angry and frightened, she almost doesn't care.

The core of the film is life at the hospital - the personalities, the characters, the mental aberrations. Star amongst the patients is Lisa (Angelina Jolie), the wild one, with whom everyone is a little infatuated. She doesn't appear to give one little bitty damn and causes grief to the staff. She can be bitchy and cold, she can be sexy and sweet. What she can't be is trusting and loyal.

Although Jolie is the one receiving acting accolades, Lisa is a gift compared to the more introspective, observant, aware Susanna. Ryder has the ability to creep in under the covers of instability. Her face is fragile, as if one loose remark might break it. This is a performance that understands the balance between silence and rage. Somewhere in the middle lies peace. Finding it takes anguish and years. The film has every quality of a personal story.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A 17-year-old's stay in a mental hospital at the end of the Sixties - based on a true story.
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Director: James Mangold

Writer: James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan, based on the book by Susanna Kaysen

Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Jared Leto, Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bettis, Jillian Armenante

Year: 1999

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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