Movie Review By Heather Clisby
Based on the autobiographical novel by Susanna Kayson, Winona Ryder stars in "Girl, Interrupted", a harrowing tale of what happens when you're a teenage girl in the late 60s who attempts suicide. Suddenly, you're carted off to Claymoore, the mental institution down the road and whatever challenges you faced in high school now seem trite and ordinary compared to the bizarre scenes and surreal characters that now make up your daily life.
Directed by James Mangold, the film begins with Susanna's desperate attempt at leaving this world and her subsequent session with a psychiatrist. Actively in denial, when asked why she took an entire bottle of aspirin with a vodka bottle chaser, Susanna responds: "I had a headache." Quickly, she is diagnosed with "Borderline Personality Disorder" and that's that.
Inside her scary new home, however, there is warmth. The caring and wise head nurse is played by the caring and wise Whoopi Goldberg, dishing out advice and punishment throughout. Susanna's new roommate is the sweet and lovely, Georgina, played by Clea DuVall, a pathological liar who reminded me of Ally Sheedy's character in "The Breakfast Club."
Then there's Lisa, a firebrand of muscle, vulgarity and anger. Inspiring both intense desire and deep fear in the other girls, Lisa is a 'lifer', repeatedly escaping and being brought back to Claymoore for further treatment. The character of Lisa is fully inhabited by Angelina Jolie, who continues to impress me as the most talented young actress in Hollywood who also happens to have such incredible lips, she almost appears to have been punched right in the mouth. In a word, she is HOT no matter what Hell her character is up to.
The only problem with translating mental anguish from a book to film format is, well, it doesn't always get there. Winona gives one of her best performances ever and it's evident this one came from the heart but other than her furious journal writings and compulsive smoking (true to the times, everyone is smoking everywhere,) Susanna doesn't seem nearly whacked out enough to be there and perhaps, that's the real tragedy here.
When Susanna's one-time lover, Toby (played by the scrumptious blue-eyed devil, Jared Leto,) comes to escape with her to Canada, she refuses to go. Her first excuse, "But I have friends in there." After a lifetime of never fitting in, it becomes painfully clear that for all the medications, lack of privacy and straightjackets, this group of mad women is the closest thing to real friends that Susanna's ever had. Not so much "Girl Interrupted" as "Girl on Pause", this one will make you redefine what 'crazy' is.
© 2000 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 1/12/00
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