1999 Running time: 127 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Psychological drama starring Winona Ryder and an Oscar-winning Angelina Jolie. At a psychiatric hospital in 1967, a troubled 18-year-old (Ryder) struggles with her personal demons and falls under the influence of Jolie's charismatic sociopath. Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg, Mad Men's Elizabeth Moss and the late Brittany Murphy all make their mark amidst the formidable female cast.

Director

  • James Mangold

Cast

  • Winona Ryder

  • Angelina Jolie

  • Whoopi Goldberg

  • Brittany Murphy

  • Vanessa Redgrave

  • Clea DuVall

  • Elisabeth Moss

Review

Spirited performances by Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie create an atmosphere of calmed madness in a mental hospital full of disturbed girls, all vying for love and attention and an escape route.

Based on Susannah Kaysen's autobiographical novel, Ryder plays the heroine who attempts suicide half-heartedly, in protest of her parents' cold and social climbing behaviour, and ends up in a mental asylum.

Her initial shock is marked as she is introduced to the other patients, who seem to be totally mad. She does not see herself as crazy, but the longer she stays in the ward with the other girls, the more she begins to believe that she is unstable and in need of treatment.

The focus of the film is Kaysen's friendship with Lisa, played by Angelina Jolie who won an Academy Award for her performance as the psychologically disturbed sociopath who spirals out of control after eight years in the hospital.

As the two become closer, the viewer is drawn into a frightening world where Susannah, who was relatively normal, if slightly depressed, is brought down by a force of apparent fearlessness that is stronger and more powerful.

Lisa is jealous of Susannah's choices in life, and her envy is so strong that it creates an anger and frustration and destructive behaviour in herself and in the other girls.

Girl, Interrupted is full of glittering stars and a tastefully depicted madhouse. Some would be cynical about the sanitised version of what must be a miserable place, but the look is fresh and the take on a mental asylum by director James Mangold is original. It allows a sneaky look to a world, which is very rarely accessible to 'sane poeple.'

The film is intelligent and engaging. There is an obvious absence of preaching and heartstring pulling which allows the viewer to become absorbed in the powerful content and immersed in the acting of two highly praised and talented actresses.

Set in the socially and politically tumultuous times of the late 1960s, these are the only clichés not avoided by the film.

Conversations about sexual freedom, draft dodging and institutionalisation; Afros, transistor radios, draft-number lotteries may be overused to depict the era, but in this case they provide a real illustration of the background to the story.

Lisa is a charismatic, free-spirited sociopath whose only pleasure is derived from the control she has over others.

Jolie plays her to perfection and gives the movie an edge of threatening anger from a madwoman ready to explode. Her cruelty displayed against the backdrop of her vulnerability is a difficult contrast to portray, but Jolie is well deserving of her Oscar and it's difficult to imagine another actress working the part so effectively.

The film explores the divide between sanity and lunacy, and although it has little new to say about the subject, the issues are presented with humour and persuasion.

The characters are so simply and beautifully depicted that they allow the viewer to enjoy their idiosyncrasies and sympathise with their troubles.

Amusing, moving and played with depth and empathy, the characters in Girl, Interrupted are some of the most believable on the big screen in recent times. Perhaps because they are based on real life characters or perhaps because the acting is the strongest point in this technically excellent movie.


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