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Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 film which is based upon the true story of Susannah Kaysen, a young girl who ends up committing herself voluntarily into the Claymoore hospital after an alleged suicide attempt because her parents don't know how to handle her.
Kaysen is played by Winona Ryder, a very talented actress who perfectly plays the role of the confused Susannah. Winona has a childlike innocence in her waif like appearance that conveys well to the role. Her doe eyes portray the vulnerability of this character who doesn't know what to do with herself when other people have expectations of her.
We start the story at the point just after the suicide attempt. Susannah is talking to some sort of psychiatrist in her home, and he persuades her to go to Claymoore for help. We see the tone and style of the film straightaway, with confusing flashbacks between present day and events that are prominent in Susannah's memories, and this shows perfectly how Susannah's mind is all over the place and not thinking clearly. She seems unable to distinguish between her memories and reality so you are unsure of how much of what she is thinking is true or just in her mind.
Very quickly, we end up at Claymoore where it is clear that although Susanne has not got the problems of some of the other long term residents, she does have some problems. The cast to this film contains some well known names. Anjelina Jolie plays another resident, Lisa Rowe. Initially I was dismissive of this character as Jolie is all to good at playing slightly weird psychotic characters, but as you get to know Lisa and see a relationship develop between her and Susannah, there is more there than first meets the eye. The relationship dynamic is interesting to watch, and Jolie does work hard at this character who has moments of lucidness and also a very unpredictable nature. Lisa is an important part of Susannah's recovery process.
Whoopi Goldberg plays Valerie Owens, a tough no nonsense nurse responsible for the care of the girls in the unit. She is seen as hard by the residents, but she really does want what is best for the girls in her care, an she is another person who has a pivotal role in Susannah's recovery process.
Brittany Murphy is another big name in the cast, playing a girl called Daisy who initially you think of as having a small role within the film, but when Lisa and Susannah escape and go to visit her, something happens which has the biggest influence of all on Susannah's recovery, and it is something she will always remember.
Susannah is committed for an 18 month period. Initially she does not react well to the programme, failing to grasp the idea that any of the residents have a major problem and becoming friends with a group of them. It's only when Lisa's condition really deteriorates to the point where she doesn't know who Susannah is any more and Susannah sees the devastation that can be caused through her destructive behaviour that something changes within her and she starts to accept the help that she needs to return to normal life in society.
The film as a whole is a very emotional piece. There are lighter moments within it, but there are some very dark moments looking at mental health and how it affects people's lives. It is something that requires a bit of patience and concentration and it might not be to everyone's taste as there are some pretty graphic scenes within which makes it fully deserving of its 15 certificate. I question whether some 15 year olds are even mature enough to cope with the themes included. It is not a film I would want to watch with a group of as a family.
The soundtrack and costumes really made it feel like the late 1960s when this was set. There are tunes like 'Downtown' and 'The End of the World' which are instantly recognisable to me and really add to the mood of the piece when they are playing.
I found this difficult to watch due to the themes and how difficult it was to piece together due to the jumping around within Susannah's memories. After watching once, I am not convinced that I would want to watch this again either due to the depth of it. However, I want to rate this highly due to the strong acting, even though I do feel Ryder and Jolie in particular are obvious choices for the type of character. It doesn't mean their portrayal is any less realistic or moving, even though predictable.
It will probably appeal more to women than men, and it deserves a watch when you have the time and mental energy to commit to it. A moving film, which will stick with me for a while.
RELEASED: 1999, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 128 mins
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
PRODUCERS: Cathy Konrad & Douglas Wick
SCREENPLAY: James Mangold, Lisa Loomer & Anna Hamilton Phelan
MUSIC: Mychael Danna
Winona Ryder as Susanna Kaysen
Angelina Jolie as Lisa
Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie
Vanessa Redgrave as Dr. Wick
Brittany Murphy as Daisy
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Adapted from Susanna Kaysen's novel of the same name, Girl, Interrupted is set in the late 1960s and begins with Susanna being rushed to hospital after what appears to be a deliberate overdose. When referred to a psychiatrist, who is a friend of the family, Susanna insists the overdose episode hadn't been a suicide attempt, and she reluctantly agrees to spend some time at a the Claymore psychiatric hospital on a voluntary basis.
Feeling out of place in Claymore at first, Susanna gradually makes friends with some of the patients, particularly the wild and rebel-rousing Lisa.
Firstly, due to the name of the author of the novel of Girl, Interrupted and the main character being the same, I perhaps wrongly assume that this story is an account of Susanna Kaysen's own experience.
From the start, and for me, Girl, Interrupted is steeped in a bleak atmosphere, and I could almost feel the depression and sense of isolation that Susanna experiences. That 'nowhere' place which is all so common to sufferers of depression coupled with a lack of understanding from both family and medical staff, is put across so very well, although to me Susanna's condition seemed less severe than the diagnosis suggested. The communication problems with psychiatrists, therapists and hospital staff is spot-on, particularly homing in on the issue of expecting patients to neatly respond to the very limiting practice of 'text book' diagnosis and therapy.
The acting is very good, particularly that of Angelina Jolie, who played the almost anarchic character of Lisa.....sometimes bullying, sometimes full of life and fun, always out to shock, and definitely disturbed. Winona Ryder also gives a very adept performance as Susanna Kaysen, a young woman who - as far as I see it - is simply having some problems relating to the world around her and needs to be seen and understood, rather than incarcerated in a place where the majority of the patients are quite seriously mentally ill.
As far as the music is concerned, it is a mixed bunch. I wasn't overly aware of a specific score - although there is one - but that score is peppered with snatches of pop music from the 1960s, including gems from The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel, Petula Clark, Aretha Franklin, Them, The Mamas & The Papas, Merilee Rush, The Band, Buddy Kaye and Skeeter Davis, to name just a few. The addition of this 1960s pop music helps to create the atmosphere of the era pretty well, although the overall feel I got from the film regarding people's personalities and the way they relate to one another, is far more up to date. Such is difficult for me to explain, but I see a major difference in the basic human condition as it was in the 1960s compared to today, and Girl, Interrupted I feel lost something in that I didn't feel as though the people came from the 1960s, even though the music, medical practices, fashions and similar did come across as historically accurate.
I couldn't help comparing Girl, Interrupted to the original 1975 version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, in that the basic idea is of somebody being hospitalised (voluntarily) who perhaps really shouldn't be there, but the root concept and storyline of the two films is different. Also, and for me, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a much more penetrating, hard-hitting and powerful film, whereas although Girl, Interrupted does have its moments, it lacks a certain punch that I'd like to have seen present. I also found some of the events in the film to be rather bitty, lacking proper follow-through, which deviated from the root point of the storyline. In addition, I felt that too much emphasis was placed upon the antics of the character Lisa, which, especially towards the end of the film, came across to me as somewhat unreal.
There are a couple of scenes in Girl, Interrupted that some people may be distressed or disturbed by, but I personally didn't find them so, perhaps because I've seen One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and similar films where I feel that the topic of mental illness is dealt with in a far more convincing and realistic way. Also and for me, Girl, Interrupted is a little too long and about midway through, I found I had to concentrate harder than was comfortable, for the purposes of holding onto the storyline.
I would have liked to see more of Susanna's therapy sessions, whereas only short snatches of them are included, those for me having more importance than patient to patient interaction, but it is possible that my expectations were veering me away from the whole point of the film.
One or two spoken phrases from the character of Susanna, whilst she was trying to explain how she was feeling to her therapists did strike home, and I feel they were very well conveyed, along with the therapists merely uttering the right noises rather than treating Susanna as an individual. Such shows up major flaws in how the whole area of therapy and psychiatric care, especially how it perhaps was during the 1960s when much less was known and understood about the human condition than it now is.
Unfortunately, there are large swathes of Girl, Interrupted, where the actors don't enunciate clearly, and I thus missed what could be important parts of dialogue. I found this to be a major distraction, very frustrating and hard work trying to home in on what people were saying to one another.
There are a couple of moderately heart-warming scenes of interaction between Winona Ryder as Susanna Kaysen and Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie, who I believe to be the head nurse on Susanna's ward, but one of them was in serious danger of lapsing into something tackily mawkish....it didn't quite sink to those depths, but it came close.
Overall, Girl, Interrupted is a good film which is well worth watching, but as said above, for me it lacked a certain finesse and power which prevented it from sinking too deeply into my psyche and making me think. The acting is more than acceptable and the basic storyline, although not put across as intricately as I'd have liked, is good. I'd also like to have seen some of the scrappier little odds and sods tidied up, but nonetheless and as a whole, this certainly is a very watchable, quite well-acted film.
I would like to award four stars, but the major flaw of largely indistinct spoken dialogue forces me to drop my rating down to three stars, as such was a major fly in the ointment of my enjoyment of the film.
At the time of writing, Girl, Interrupted can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
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Used: from 13p to £10.00
Collectible: Only one copy currently available @ £5.99
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Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Girl Interrupted is a fantastic film that really is quite hard to fit into any specific genre. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of a young girl who after an overdose is locked up in a secure psychiatric unit.
This is a film only review.
The film is set in 1967 and is adapted from the memoirs of Susanna Kavesen and tells how at the tender age of 18 she is persuaded to voluntarily check herself into the Claymoore hospital after she's overdosed on aspirin albeit unintentionally - she was just trying to rid herself of her headache and in her own words 'make the shit stop'.
Susanna volunteers to enter the Claymore Mental Hospital to undergo treatment after overdosing on aspirin. While in the institute, she befriends some of the other inpatients including Polly, Georgina, Daisy and Lisa.
While undergoing her own treatment Susanna's influenced by the other patients and goes through phases of causing trouble, refusing medication and more. Between them the group of girls are going through a variety of problems, and we see how the suicide of one affects the others, and watch as they learn to cope again, or in some case fail to learn to cope. We see them both during their stay, and during a period outside the institution when Susanna and Lisa break out and go to visit an ex inmate.
Over time, Susanna learns to express herself through writing and painting and slowly recovers from all that she's been through and is eventually released.
This is a cast that is filled with well known names and it would be easy to reel off a list of them. However you can see that on any regular cast list so I shan't do so. However some do rate a special mention.
Wynona Rider plays Susanna and does so incredibly well. Her portrayal of this confused teenager is emotional and realistic, and she shows a huge depth to her acting abilities in this film. From sexually explicit scenes to those where she's trying to sooth a fellow inmate by playing guitar and singing to her, she brings Susanna to life.
Angelina Jolie may be better known for her more popular action hero roles, but like Winona Ryder, she shows herself incredibly capable in her role of Lisa Rowe. The force with which she played the part was perfect for sociopathic rebellious Lisa. Refusing medication, showering abuse on other patients and staff alike, and generally being very over the top and larger than life as the role required.
Brittany Murphy who played Daisy once again here showed her wonderful talent and it's such a shame that her early demise (Brittany's), means we won't get to see that talent develop any further. As Daisy she shows a side to her acting that is brilliant. Emotion combined with pathos makes her Daisy seem absolutely real and you truly believe that she is a girl who's been sexually abused and who now has bulimia and who cuts herself. She gives us a shy girl who is desperate for attention and who's really vulnerable and a little naive.
I really enjoyed watching this film. Despite having a quite dark subject matter, there are lighter moments in it and the overall feeling is one of realism and teenage angst taken to an extreme level.
Although it's set in the 60's, the film translates pretty well to modern times too, as the problems faced by the various characters are all things that might occur just as easily today as then.
There are some truly intense emotional moments through the film and some very dark areas visited including suicide, various mental health disorders, self harming, and more. I've heard some people say that they believe the rating should be set higher - it's a 15 rating - but I personally think that the rating has been very carefully thought about and is pretty much bang on where it should be after all these are teenagers going through these things, so why shouldn't teenagers want to watch the film and learn how others cope with these things. Don't get me wrong, I think there are some teens who will find the subject too upsetting, but at 15+ I think most youngsters are self aware enough to know that if they're not coping with it then to either stop watching it, or to talk to someone and watch it with them.
The film is one you're not likely to forget in a hurry either - I know I won't. And yet, despite this, I'm also happy to re-visit it and watch it over again. I know there will be people who will feel that this is not a subject for them, but to those people, I would say try it. You might enjoy it, you might learn something, and you might even come away feeling more comfortable with some of the subjects dealt with which is never a bad thing as the more mental health issues are brought into the open the more easily they are dealt with.
This is a great film which I think should appeal to many different people. The acting is fantastic, the story is great (not least because it is based on a true story) and it manages to inject humour into an otherwise humourless subject.
Winona Ryder plays a young girl named Susanna who is diagnosed (possibly incorrectly) with Borderline Personality Disorder and is then admitted onto a secure psychiatric ward. The story looks at her own personal battles but also at the other colourful characters on the ward, how she interacts with them and how friendships are built up despite the many problems they all share. Susanna rebels against the system and against the head nurse - played by Whoopi Goldberg - and is all too easily led astray by the extremely rebellious and 'seductively charismatic sociopath' Lisa, played fantastically by Angelina Jolie. We follow Susanna and Lisa on their quest for freedom - both physically and mentally - and enjoy the highs as well as the lows of life in the psychiatric unit.
Entertaining and powerful, this film portrays the psychiatric unit in a realistic way whilst trying to show there is some light behind the darkness of it all. Jolie's performance is simply brilliant (indeed she won an Oscar for the part). It will both sadden and warm you but ultimately leave you feeling lifted.
I do understand that often a film review is that much better if you have a good insight into the background of the film, for instance knowing the events that occurred at the time if a story is based on something historical, or having read the book if it is based on a book, whether fiction or biographical. Unfortunately, in this case, I have not yet read the book and know only basic details of what it is about - those of which the film covers anyway. I am hoping someday to get around to reading the book, but for now, I shall be giving the perspective of the average viewer coming to this film with no prior knowledge.
Put simply, this is the story of a young woman's experience in a mental institution. Susanna Kaysen took an overdose of tablets claiming she 'had a headache' and was swiftly rushed to hospital. Afterwards it was agreed with her parents and doctor that it would be best if she took some time away from her life to 'have a rest', in other words, she would be admitted to an institution, a good, expensive place, where she would be taken care of for a while. Showing neither much reluctance nor much enthusiasm, she was told it would be best if she did not say goodbye to her parents, but got into a taxi and left immediately for the place she would then be spending the next year-and-a-half of her life.
The people she meets intrigue her and change her. She studies them and writes about her experiences. Through this story, we get to learn about a whole range of mental health problems and emotional difficulties faced by the patients - or inmates, as they may seem. This, I found fascinating, whether or not I felt I could relate to or even understand the characters. It is hard to keep an open mind, but the film shows vulnerability and kindness in subtle ways throughout. The film is certainly more exciting than the average chick-flick, but nonetheless it is very moving and can provoke some negative feelings either about society or individual carers or even patients that are hard to fight off. Not enough information is given to fully understand any one condition, but rather we get a brief overview and a look at how different people interact and what happens when conflicting personalities are confronted head on. In spite of this, I did find this to be more a feel-good film, if just for Susanna and her future.
My favourite part is when one of the girls who has severe scarring on her face and is left in a room crying, Susanna plays the Petula Clark song, 'Downtown' to her to soothe her, and the emotionally hardened Lisa Rowe joins in. It really is a very moving moment when something so simple, even silly can at least bring a little bit of hope to someone. It also shows a nicer side to Lisa, and makes us appreciate that deep down, we all have good in us, even if we seem completely shallow and heartless. Even if she only joins in as it looks like fun, she clearly feels good for seeing that they have managed to calm the girl.
The entire cast was a strong one, filled with familiar names and impressive performances, but certain of the main actresses I'd like to say a few words on.
This is my favourite film so far for Angelina Jolie, and it really does her justice. Agreed, she makes a sexy, tough heroine in all the action films, but really there is a lot more depth and quality to her acting and this film was a good opportunity for her to show that. She steps into the role so well that since, it actually impacted on my view of her as a person. She seems very aware of the conflicting thoughts and feelings that can affect people with mental illness - even those regarded as sociopathic. Her conveyance was moving, even when she appears cold. I was glad to see this as I think generally we start to lose respect for those actresses that some may imply were chosen for their looks. This lady is talented. The same can be said for Wynona Ryder, who was the gentler and of the two. Somehow, though, she manages to portray a delicate, yet very strong woman - although I think is often her main appearance in films.
It was a real tragedy for us to have lost Brittany Murphy so young, and here is a role she played beautifully and convincingly. Her appearances are more brief and short, yet the impact is equally strong. I was not exactly a fan and knew very little about this actress, other than from what I saw in this film and 8-mile, but I think she could have been one of those that lasted on the film scene, albeit predominantly in supporting roles, which appeared to be a strong point anyhow. It's strange how her character, 'Daisy' was cringeworthy yet sweet, the horrors of her background slowly being revealed behind an almost childlike person. All of the patients obviously have life-stories behind them, but her simple nature makes hers that much more sinister.
Whoopi Goldberg is in the film, but there's little to say about her role as it is not very prominent and she seems to drift in and out of focus. Although I am fond of her as an actress, I felt no connection or interest towards her character in this case. There was one scene where she loses her patience with Susanna, which frustrated me as a viewer, but apart from that, there was no passion in her role. This was probably the intention, as I imagine in those days staff were less aware and probably more distanced and unsympathetic (albeit well-meaning) than they would be today. It's a shame really as it would have been nice to have a contrast where she or another nurse could be the good, more inspiring, ahead-of-her-time type amongst the harsher of the staff.
This is really a film about the people and a variety of personalities, so there is rightly very little to say about other qualities in the film. It is set around the 1960s and so the music featured is of this date, but I think there was a good choice of songs to maintain your interest. Most memorably, the highly popular sad song 'End of the World' by Skeeter Davis features as a song played within the film (repeatedly, much to Lisa's annoyaince). Not difficult for that period. Most of the characters could easily have looked liked people from today, but at the same time fitted the image of the '60s. Well. Much of the film is set within the hospital and so the setting is very clinical and dull, yet it has its exciting side that we see when the patients sneak off at night to an underground area, that even has a bowling alley! I think the settings are meant to be fairly dismal, not just as a matter of accuracy but also because that is pretty much the frame of mind of the people, not just patients, in the film.
Before commenting on the actual classification, I want to say that this really is an emotionally intense film. I'm easily affected by such things (I don't mean just crying or something but being left in deep thought or feeling sad for a bit too long afterwards) and so I would say as someone who knows that if you are feeling at all low, you might be better advised to watch this another time. Also for more vulnerable younger viewers generally, parents may want to consider whether they are prepared for the sort of issues that this film deals with, which include self-harm and suicide/suicide attempts, actually shown. I'm not against these things being discussed with, for instance, teenagers, but in fact some discussion may be absolutely necessary after seeing this film - I could have done with someone to talk to! I guess what I'm trying to say is that the more people to see this film the better, but just at a time when they will digest it with no harm done. The film was rated 15, and given that there are suicide/self-harm scenes and some swearing/crude language, this seems perfectly reasonable to me.
This is one of the most memorable films I have seen, and I really loved it for that. It won't be for everyone, and is only recommended to those genuinely prepared to keep an open mind, but really I would like to think that it is accessible to most people, or at least will be at some point. Considering the content of the film, there was a part of me that felt good after seeing this film, and certainly I really felt a connection with the patients. When I get round to it, I would like to buy the DVD of this film. I think if this sounds like your kind of film, you may find it worthwhile to buy too.
- Cast & Credits -
- Story -
Girl, Interrupted tells the story of Susanna Kaysen, a young adult who is rather depressed and is rushed to hospital after apparently attempting to commit suicide. A doctor who's a family friend convinces her to check in to a psychiatric hospital for whats described as a short time to allow her to properly relax so to speak but of course its not as simple as that and she wonders how long she'll have to stay before she may be cured and be able to leave. She soon discovers the other patients, each of which have their own issues/illnesses and becomes quite close to them, especially to the most boisterous and rebellious of the lot of them, a woman called Lisa who has a habit of escaping and likes to play the leader of the pack, getting people into trouble regularly.
Will Susanna manage to discover what, if anything, is truly wrong with her and to change her attitudes and indeed personality so that she may be allowed to leave the hospital? will Lisa lead her to do things that she may regret? you'll have to watch the movie to find out.
- More Information, Thoughts & Opinions -
**Note - I do go into more detail than usual about the story in this particular review. I don't feel that I give away too much in terms of what precisely happens nor do I say the outcome of the movie as such, so if you don't mind knowing a bit more about the story then feel free to read on but if you'd rather not then I recommend that you skip the first four paragraphs**
The movie does make you think. At first you as a viewer are unsure of quite whats happened and what state of mind Susanna is in, she denies publically that she tried to kill herself and the taxi cab driver who takes her to the hospital asks her what she's done because she, to him, seems normal and not crazy, although she does sign herself in to the care of the hospital of her own free will, she claims that it is not her that brought herself there but instead her parents.
In time there's a fair amount of rebellion as you'd expect, after Susanna has spent time with Lisa, she is quite rude and insulting to the head nurse at the height of things, with some strong racist comments as her frustration shows, after Lisa is taken away to stay elsewhere. There is also a stage of realisation after looking inwardly and assessing situations but of course I wouldn't want to spoil the ultimate outcome of the movie so you'll have to watch it to discover whether she is ever cured or recovers from her 'illness', if it is or was ever possible at that time, for that to happen, of course.
For the first half of the movie, there are flashbacks to her life beforehand and how frankly she spoke about her fascination with death and how people reacted to her, which helps to build up a better picture of what she's like, I suppose. Its nice to see how things change as time goes on and she stays in the hospital, her attitude definitely changes and she observes the other patients, their quirks, the way they behave, especially Lisa, who claims to know what's really going on but there may be more to it than that, could she be hiding something behind her tough, bullying type exterior?. I thought it was good to see the way that different characters interacted and to see what affected each other more harshly than other things, I suppose. It was interesting to see how they grouped together to help each other out at times and other times they pushed each others buttons.
Promiscuity is one of the issues or subjects brought up in this movie, as we learn more about Susanna's life and the doctors note her tendency to be promiscuous in her records, claiming that this further backs up her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, although she challenges this, asking what they define as being promiscuous and I think its quite clear that she's a pretty lonely person, while acting somewhat tough and defensive publically. Of course this movie is set in the 1960s and so such issues were pretty common as that was a time when there was quite alot of change in teenage life, indeed you could say that teeangers were a somewhat new phenomenom as far as society is or was concerned and parents were probably less tolerant of some behaviours then and possibly would be quicker to get their children assessed by a doctor or psychiatrist if they did anything seen to them as being extreme while also not following perhaps the usual pattern of having a career path to follow, wanting to date, get married and have children and live in a white picket fence house - all of that. Indeed Susanna is asked about her plans at different times in the movie and she demonstrates quite a defiant attitude I suppose in response (the word ambivolent is used), which doesn't help her case, although it makes me wonder - do I have a personality disorder because heck knows I don't have a set career path or plans as to what I want to achieve over the next few/5/10 years of my life and I can be pretty defensive too lol. In that way, I feel that this movie is trying to make a point about perhaps how political things were, or more how society perhaps felt threatened, by the attitudes and behaviour of young adults in the 1960s and how some of those people perhaps struggled to fit in, in the then new age of sexual freedom, love and expression I suppose.
The movie in terms of as a movie, is quite good I feel. I thought that both Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie gave decent performances, particularly Ryder for playing this character that seems very 'with it' but is she? and of course Jolie for playing the larger than life bully Lisa, who's loud and brash and quite troubled. Ryders character of Susanna is alot more private while Jolies character of Lisa is alot more attention seeking and their performances are quite convincing at portraying such characters, I feel. I also liked the character that Whoopi Goldberg played too, that of the head nurse Valerie, who takes alot of grief and your not sure what to make of her until things changed near the end and her character comes into her own, so to speak.
Whether this movie is a true or accurate reflection in terms of what such places were like in that decade, of course I wouldn't really know but it didn't seem sensationalist or too over the top, it seemed pretty accurate to me, indeed I believe the movie is based on a novel which is written by the real Susanna, so it must be pretty accurate given its based on a true story I believe, though how closely the movie reflects the novel, I can't comment on either I'm afraid.
The movie is quite long at just a little over two hours running time, yet I thought it was quite intriguing and I didn't feel that it became too boring mid way through as some movies do, so thats a plus. However, I did find it quite difficult to follow some of the dialogue, the audio levels weren't great (I have the official DVD and the volume was turned up to the usual level for listening to movies, so why this is, I don't know) and I found it hard to follow in parts and indeed I ended up deciding to put the subtitles on so I could be sure to follow it, which isn't something that happens often and I have to mention as a disadvantage, as that definitely irked me. I'd just watched a bit of TV before putting the movie on and I could hear that fine and other movies don't have this issue but I did have it with this movie, I think at times some dialogue is spoken by characters in the background/distance and its not too clear whats said and other times things are whispered, so subtitles do come in handy.
If you're pretty critical then you could perhaps claim that there are one or two plot holes in the movie, as I did leave wondering a little about the outcome. The characters are definitely interesting but not much is revealed about any other characters than Susanna, Lisa and another patient called Daisy and you don't really learn a great deal about the different illnesses that these patients are diagnosed with, which is perhaps a shame. The ending will probably annoy some as it doesn't entirely tie up all the loose ends either and indeed it's left to the viewer to come to their own conclusions, so to speak but I'll leave it at that for fear of giving too much away. Its hard to explain exactly but having seen the movie, I feel that the plot was perhaps missing something somewhere, the movie features some pretty strong language and also of course it goes without saying that its quite dark and depressing in theme, so it won't be for everyone but all that put aside, I thought it was quite a good movie, its certainly thought provoking stuff.
- Would I Recommend It? -
In a word, yes. Its quite a long movie yet I didn't lose interest and I thought the characters were quite interesting. The cast is good and its intriguing, its also quite thought provoking and I felt that generally speaking, its quite a well made movie, so I would recommend it. It won't be for everyone, of course, see the last two paragraphs above for my main criticisms but otherwise, if this interests you, then I'd gladly recommend that you watch this movie. Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for her portrayal of Lisa (for best supporting actress), so there are some good performances here and thus its worth a watch.
I hope you found my review useful, I apologise if you think that it has too many spoilers although really I haven't mentioned the main scenes in the movie that make it interesting I feel, so it should be ok. Anyway thanks for reading it, thanks for all r/r/c's. This review is also posted on Ciao UK under the same username.
Girl Interrupted in set in the late 1960's and mainly takes place at the renowned New England psychiatric hospital and is based on the memoirs of Susanna Kaysen. The book, of the same name, was released in 1993.
Susanna Kaysen - played by Winona Ryder finds herself admitted to New England Pyshciatric hospital after a half hearted attempt at suicide lead her to a session with her new psychiatrist who diagnosed her with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She finds herself making friends with fellow patients Lisa (Angelina Jolie) and Daisy (Brittany Murphy) . She spends nearly two years and the hospital.
The story follows how the friends all cope with the time spent in the hospital, yet all coping with different illness.
Lisa is a sociopath, ex-junkie who barely eats and never sleeps. And regularly escapes from the hospital. I don't personally believe that Lisa really is a sociopath, but that she enjoys causing the staff upset and annoyance and wants to live her life that way and has no intentions of getting better.
Daisy is obsessive compulsive and eats chicken all the time. The has a strange goal to collect a particular number of carcasses before she can leave New England. She is addicted to laxatives and her dad is a bit of perv! I shall not spoil.
I thoroughly enjoy this film each and every time I watch it. Jolie and Murphy shine for me - Oh and Whoopi Goldberg and the psychiatric ward nurse is just the best. I can take or leave Ryder but her portrayal as Susanna, the adolescent girl with BPD is impressive.
The films itself questions boundaries for me. Does confining crazy people with crazy people make for a great healing atmosphere, or does it just make the whole world crazy. Should these girls be free in society with responsibilities?
My Favourite Quote by Susanna
"What kind of sex isn't casual?"
The score, by Mychael Danna, didn't hugely stand out for me, though was adequately drab at the right times!
Jolie won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Girl Interrupted. She also won a Golden Globe and an Empire award for her role.
Director: James Mangold
Writer: James Mangold (Screenplay)
Susanna Kaysen (Book)
Soundtrack: Mychael Danna
Running Time: 125 minutes
UK Release: March 2000
Review also on ciao - theshinyone July 2009
After reading the book Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, I was interested to see whether or not the gripping reality of mental health care in the 1960's could be effectively conveyed on the "big screen".
Upon watching the film I discovered there were a lot of differences as well as similarities to the book, however I do not and did not find this off putting. For example, Susanna Kaysen was a patient at McClean Hospital in America, which had treated the likes of Sylvia Plath and Ray Charles. The movie however renames the hospital 'Claymoore' and does not make reference to it's previous clients.
The film showcases the talents of the main actor Winona Rider, who portrayed the sense of despair and institutionalisation brilliantly. Angelina Jolie, Britanny Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg all provided supporting roles, with Whoopi playing the part of the charge nurse, Murphy and Jolie were fellow patients. It was rather refreshing to see Angelina in a supporting role as I have only ever encountered her as a lead. As expected she did perform her role well, interacting so intensely with the other actors in scenes that it is hard to believe the film is not instead a real life documentary.
Angelina Jolie plays the infamous Lisa, who is a sociopath, as well as reputed rebel against the system, frequently adsconding from the hospital. For a while Susannah is taken into Lisa's world of non compliance and "rage against the system," however when she realises the effect it is having on her recovery, essentially prohibiting it, she becomes less involved with Lisa, choosing instead the path of recovery. Whoopi Goldberg gives an outstanding performance as the head nurse, both the enemy of Susannah's illness as the force of goodness against it, and also the greatest supporter of Susannah's recovery, often fighting vehemently for it. Brittany Murphy plays Daisy, a young girl abused by her father, with incredibly strange eating habits, who isolates herself from the friendships of the girls. All of the above characters are real, they are all mentioned in the book by Kaysen, and are all behaving as they did in Susannah's experiences with them in Mclean hospital, however some of the sotrylines are embellished, due to the fact the book is less of a recollection of events but a cohesive mould of Kaysen's thoughts. For example the death of one of the characters is witnessed by Kaysen in the film, however in the book she recalls how she was merely informed of the death whilst an inpatient.
The basic outline of the plot is as follows, Susannah, wishes to become a writer, rather than the traditional housewife of the 1950's, as her mother was. Both her parents and school frown upon this, shortly after graduating Susannah takes an overdose of aspirin. After her overdose, she returns home to find her parents have called in a professional psychiatrist, he evaluates her and based on his recommendation her parents admit her to Claymore. It is revealed that Susannah has in fact been depressed for a long time. She initially befriends the most extroverted character, Lisa, however when Lisa's bad behaviour and unwillingness to help herself rub off on Susannah her progress plateaus. The decision then for Susannah is whether or not she really wants to fight for her health, of whether she is to follow Lisa on her own path of self destructiveness.
This is the kind of film that can be considered "heavy going" to watch, and although its not exactly a chill out before bed movie I still find myself regularly scheduling in evenings to watch this classic. You will find humour, sadness and also a somewhat scary reality, that anyone of us could fall captive to mental illness, but also hope in that anyone of us could summon the strength Miss Kaysen found to cross back into what may be considered by society to be good mental health. I highly recommend that this be a part of everyone's film collections.
The dvd contains some extra deleted scenes well worth watching, as well as interviews with Winona Rider and Susanna Kaysen herself, both talking about how it felt for Winona to portray this character.
The film is approximately 2 hours long, with a well chosen soundtrack featuring the likes of Wilco and their song, "How to fight Lonliness," which so wonderfully captures the feelings of this amazing and emotive film.
This review is my own work, currently posted on other sites also.
Ok cards on the table, early doors. This film stars Angelina Jolie. Now I am not a fan at all of Jolie visually or of her acting ability. Furthermore this film also stars Whoopi Goldberg...boooo. I am not a fan of hers either.
But.....Girl Interupted (1999), is a brilliant film. The film is an adaptation of a memoir written by Susanna Kayser who was diagnosed with a bordenline personality disorder and spent time in a mental institute. It was from here that she found her muse to write her memior.
Playing Kayser is Winona Ryder who, after taking an overdose of painkillers and booze, finds herself in Claymoore Institution. Quickly diagnosed with borderline personality disorder Kayser begins forming relationships with the other patients despite her initial discomfort with being an inmate herself.
Rubbing shoulders with a pathological liar, a sexual abuse victim, a burns victim and eating disorders aplenty, Kayser soon makes the decision that she is not ill enough to be in this kind of company.
The movie ups a gear though with the introduction, to the institution of Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie) a wild sociopath. Wild and unwilling to take her medication Rowe quickly disturbs the status quo in the home and with her sociopathic charm immediately befriends and manipulates Kayser.
The film continues on to show how the friendship of Rowe and Kayser shapes each of them. It also shows powerfully the influence that the sociopath is able to have on the other weakened distressed patients of the ward.
I think the reason I liked this film is that the subject matter is so alien to anything that I have ever experienced or seen. Seeing the women in the hospital each with their own traits, weaknesses and illnesses I found it really interesting to see how they interact together.
Angelina Jolie brings an energy to this role that, in my opinion, she has never shown since in anything else she has done. She is so believable in her wild moments and in her charming sociopathic moments, it makes me wonder whether her own personal experiences (wedding Johnny Lee Miller in his blood stained shirt for instance?) have influenced her take on this role. Her ability to show both sides of a sociopath earned her a well deserved oscar.
As for Whoopie Goldberg, well i'm afraid this is the same old Whoopi reconstituted again. Almost smug in her delivery and cliched in her approach nothing of merit again from Goldberg.
I really liked this film and it is one that is easy to watch again and again..with a break obviously. A really interesting and different kind of film to my usual offerings and one that more people need to see.
Based on the real life tale of Susanna Kaysen, institutionalised during the late 1960's following a suicide attempt, this film follows her journey after signing herself up for a "rest" in Claymoor, not knowing at the time that she will be in there for 18 months.
During this stay, she befriends:
-Polly 'Torch' Clark (a burn victim suffering from depression and schizophrenia)
-Georgina Tuskin (a pathological liar)
-Daisy Randone (has an eating disorder and is suggested she is the victim of sexual abuse)
-Janet Webber (a sufferer of anorexica nervosa).
However, the most notable and easily memorable character from the film is Lisa Rowe, the chain-smoking, rebellious sociopath. The film focuses not just on Susanna but also on the relationship she shares with Lisa and their refusal to participate in the system that would help them 'get better'.
This film is draining, it is moving, it is harrowing yet the chracters let you in. It is difficult is stay detached from this film when watching it because we truly wish the best for them, even when they are acting out.
There are some anachronisms in the film but this is only a tiny glitch and you would have to be a music buff to really acknowledge them.
Angelina Jolie was most deserving of an oscar for this film for the role of Lisa. It is spectacular and might even overshadow Winona Ryder playing the lead of Susanna.
I would recommend this film to most people. It is not your cliche chick-flick nor is it constant drama. It is so much more than that and worth a viewing.
This film is one of my favourites, and has an amazing cast with Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg and more. The story is of a girl (Winona Ryder) who goes to a hospital for mental health because she is suffering from the case of Borderline Personality Syndrome. Inside she is battled with her own thoughts and emotions, but that of the other patients aswell. The 'leader' of the patients (Angelina Jolie) quickly susses the girl out and they become friends, though there is always a risk of being turned on. She makes friends inside with the rest of the patients, though there are many instances where she is scared and confused. The girl makes the patients see the truth, and realise what is really wrong with themselves. She does finally leave healthy and 'cured'. The story is a true story and is very sad, and heart warming. The acting is very believable, and can get you in tears.
Girl, interrupted is a film that is based on writer Susanna Kaysen's stay at a mental hospital in the 1960's. Questionably diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Susanna (Winona Ryder) rebels against the nurse in charge (Whoopie Goldberg) and the top psychiatrist (Vanessa Redgrave), choosing to befriend her fellow in mates, a group of young women with various psycological issues, including sociopath, Lisa (Angelina Jolie). Susanna tries to reclaim her freedom, but first she has to face the prson who terrifies her most of all... herself.
Girl, interrupted has a good storyline that runs the whole way through the 2 hour long film. It is gripping viewing that gives you a good insight into the world these girls with psycological issues live in. All the stars in the film play their roles exceptionally well, especially Angelina Jolie, who infact won an Oscar for her role in this film.
This film also stars Brittany Murphy, Clea Duvall, Elisabeth Moss, Jared Leto
I must admit, when I heard what this film was called, I immediately "had" to buy a copy. I had absolutely no idea what the film was actually about, but the title was enough to intrigue me wholly.
I must add at this point, that I was in no way disappointed. Angelina Jolie's performance as Lisa, is one of her best roles in my opinion, the portrayal of such an overpowering character cannot be an easy one to portray. Winona Ryder is also particularly good at portraying the often very confusing world of mental health and detainment in hospitals.
The film illustrates just how friendships can be formed in the most unlikely of situations, and how the system both triumphed and failed in America, when dealing with mental health patients. It also illustrates how some simply cannot be saved unfortunately.
Whilst many may compare this to 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', I disagree entirely, I believe that Girl, Interrupted is in a whole league of it's own, as it manages, unlike the former, to make you engage completely, it makes you laugh, and if you're anything like me, it will probably also make you cry.
Whoopi Goldberg's role as 'Valerie' is also a poignant factor in the success of the film, as she guides the increasingly irrational Susannah eventually to the right course.
Of course, this film should be viewed with a completely open mind. Set in a time where drugs and promiscuity where very much accepted, but yet also very taboo, it illustrates the constraints of society, and the way in which the mind can play tricks on people.
The other girls on the ward, Daisy, Polly and Georgina - the girl who wishes she could live in Oz forever - make the film the quirky, yet emotive, brutally honest masterpiece that it is.
I would say well worth a watch!
Girl, Interrupted is based on the book and real life experiences of Susanna Kaysen in late 1960s America. Kaysen seemed to be a little bit oddball in her peer group, primarily because she did not have a clear cut path to her goals laid out in front of her that fitted societys norms. She was not planning to go to University after High School, and was the only member of the class in this position. Her goal of wanting to write was not acknowledged by her parents or her lecturers, and after an incident where she takes some aspirin washed down with a bottle of Vodka, she is seen by a psychiatrist friend of her Fathers and forced to sign herself into an institution - Claymoore - for a short rest.
Kaysen is played by Winona Ryder, with Angelina Jolie playing the other main part; the role of Lisa, who has been institutionalised for some 8 years despite numerous escapes. The mainly female cast also includes Whoopi Goldberg cast as Nurse Valerie and Elisabeth Moss as Polly Torch Clark, a victim of a terrible fire in childhood.
Susanna is roomed with Georgina, who is a pathological liar with a love for the Wizard of Oz. She quickly becomes the target of Lisas anger and rage, following another failed escape attempt by the latter, and Susanna starts to realise the significance of what this rest might actually mean; unable even to take a bath or shave her legs without a nurse watching over her, on suicide watch; and all the girls being forced to take pills on a regular basis.
Surprisingly, although this is still the 1960s we are not shown an horrendous side to institutional life; albeit a life with regular checks on the girls and life revolving around the TV room and arbitrary rules. What is heartwarming is the way the girls do befriend each other, perhaps an unlikely bunch of friends outside of an institution, but all understanding each other from within the walls despite some clashes between difficult personalities.
What struck me as also perhaps indicative of the time was the fact that Susanna had been diagnosed (rightly or wrongly) as suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder; a fact she was only to discover when the girls broke into the office one night and read their own files. This discovery in itself was to have an effect on Susanna as it caused her to question her own beliefs and feelings about herself, and some of her behaviours as promiscuity was associated with BPD yet she never seemed to be overly promiscuous throughout.
It is also striking and moving how someone who may have tried to take her own life, but certainly did not need locking up for her own protection is institutionalised for so long. Even her parents, when they came to visit were more concerned about what they would tell their friends at the forthcoming holidays, than with the real understanding and assistance of their daughters mental state.
Jolie, was extremely convincing in her role as the aggressive and authoritative Lisa, and Susanna was never going to be a match for her, or be able to stand up to her, with Lisa being the far more dominant personality. But it is their escape attempt that is to be the real turning point for Susanna, if she is ever to recover and be discharged from Claymoore for ever. And ultimately Lisa herself has to face up to her own challenges.
It is an extremely moving, yet not too harrowing insight into 1960s attitudes and mindsets with a different outlook on mental health care than in todays western world. All the lead characters play their roles convincingly and with passion and yet there are some occasional humourous scenes too, which add a drop of normality to the insitution that is 1960s Claymoore.
This film is certainly not without its emotion either, but this film is likely to tug at your heart strings in a more profound way to a conventional weepy movie. It is more likely to really make you think about different struggles that different people have. In many ways it is a shame that some of the other characters in the film were not brought to the forefront, but the book itself is essentially the writings of Susanna, and therefore individual characters she met at Claymoore are unlikely to have played a big part in the book either.
Released in 1999 and directed by James Mangold who also wrote the 2003 thriller Identity and (more surprisingly) the 1988 cartoon Oliver and Company. Girl, Interrupted has a runtime of just over 2 hours and is rated 15 in the United Kingdom. Perhaps not the classic that was One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest but this is still a poignant and moving film in its own right.
A chick-flick with artistic merit…no, it just doesn’t sound right does it? However, a few rare films fall into this category, the “Virgin Suicides” is perhaps what I would describe is a girly flick in some ways, but then my favourite movie is “Donnie Darko” and not “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. “Girl, Interrupted” is such a film, an intelligent chick flick, a little lighter in heart than many serious movies, and an extremely different story than the book, but it is a truly heart-warming, yet bright, story. Based on (wonderful) “The Bell Jar”-esque book by Susanna Kaysen, which is a semi-autobiographical work, it stretches poetic license to the full. The book in itself doesn’t have a clear storyline, it is a Thorazine-hazed look at a looney bin (to be PC) in the sixties, a collection of abstract ideas and medical jargon that works beautifully, as Kaysen describes her idiosyncratic and generally light-hearted (for the situation) co-inmates. The film, as I mentioned, stretches the old poetic license quite a bit. The film has a clear storyline dating from day of capture to day of release, with all manner of hilarious, heart-breaking and terrifying escapades in between. Events in the movie not included in the book include an escape, a suicide, a cat, and a near murder. However, this license is necessary, because a film based closer to the book would probably be the most Lynchian, confounding and acid-trippy film ever made. The film is the story of Susanna (Winona Ryder), a confused individual who has taken to self-harm and attempted suicide, along with sleeping with professors and falling asleep at graduation. Her well-off, completely ignorant parents are more worried about their next cocktail party than the welfare of their daughter. After Susanna “Chased a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka” she is questionably diagnosed with borderline perso
nality disorder and shipped off to the nearest loony bin, neatly overlooking the fact that the vast majority of eighteen-year-old girls, especially in the sixties, are confused individuals. Oh, and said loony bin happens to be the same one that housed Sylvia Plath, Ray Charles and the Taylors. Susanna is introduced to Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg), the warm-hearted head nurse who comes in for frequent racial slander from snotty anorexic Janet Webb. Then, one by one she meets her fellow inmates, sweet-natured and Wizard of Oz devotee Georgina (Clea Duvall) who is also a pathological liar, the eternal child Polly who was horribly scarred in a fire as a child, crazy dyke Cynthia, and the seething, hostile mass of chicken-eating, laxative junkie Daisy (Brittany Murphy in a real star turn). Then, in an explosive confrontation, she is forcibly introduced to the top dog of the ward, the alternately sexy/charismatic, and terrifying sociopath Lisa (Angelina Jolie, or old BJ lips as my mate Sean calls her). What follows is a story of Cuckoo’s Nest like rebellion, as quiet natured Susanna falls in with Lisa, the two become co-hellraisers and partners in crime, even though most of the crimes committed on the ward are fairly innocent- swivel chair races, informal trips to an underground bowling gallery, playing “Downtown” to Polly when she freaks out and gets put in isolation. The latter causes Lisa to be moved to another ward, and given electric shock treatment, although eventually she and Susanna escape for a short while. Susanna returns of her own accord after a terrible conclusion to a meeting with an old friend, and from then on she pledges herself to get better and get out as soon as she can. Lisa returns a while later, when Susanna is scheduled for release in a couple of days. Twitching, unhealthy and pale she has turned into an introverted mass of craziness, and an explosive last night on the ward gives both Susanna, Lisa and the other g
irls a sharp wake-up call. Girl, Interrupted, shows Winona Ryder spring back to form again, after a multitude of poor roles, the darling of the indie/mainstream genre of movie makes a superb comeback. She plays Susanna perfectly with the alternate grief, terror, confusion and joy that the role commands, and is eternally likeable (as Winona always is) as a sane girl, who is diagnosed as crazy. She conveys Susanna’s natural charm that has the boys on their knees with sensitivity and charisma. I reckon she deserved an Oscar for this one, but it was Jolie who got it. However, it was thoroughly deserved, Jolie is absolutely explosive as Lisa, the sociopath with a heart of gold buried underneath a glass ice-queen exterior. Her frequent dangerous outbursts are played with ruthless abandon, and Angelina Jolie, being a quirky girl herself, IS Lisa, right down to the feline grace and cold mannerisms. Whoopi Goldberg is the heavyweight operating among a multitude of young promise like Brittany Murphy and Clea Duvall, and she steers her girls like an admonishing mother hen, who really does know what’s best for the girls all along, despite certain Cuckoo’s Nest comparisons. Girl, Interrupted really is a film that lives up to the book. The inner personality of each of the girls is revealed in Susanna’s journal, and in an astute and sensitive manner, she delicately points out that perhaps it isn’t the mental patients who are crazy, but the state of the people in the places of power. The subject matter is dealt with respectfully, and the film is full of funny bits, sad bits and scary bits. It meshes together perfectly as a film, and despite the rather circuitous take on the book, it truly is a merit to it. While generally I would recommend reading the book before seeing the movie, in this case I think it should be the other way around, because the movie does add something extra to the book, although the book has
a slightly desolate feel to it, and the movie has a very chick-flicky ending (Winona leaving Claymore with tears in her eyes, lamenting about her great friends.) It asks serious questions about the people in power at the time (maybe even applied to the present) when a girl can be put away for a year after a ten-minute interview and immediate diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder, a medical definition of which describes more or less every teenager on the planet- “A instability of self-image, relationships and mood. Uncertainty about goals, impulsive in activities that are self-damaging such as casual sex. Social contrariness and a generally pessimistic attitude are often observed”. In a time when everything seemed unsure- revolts left right and centre, the emergence of civil rights, the early stirrings of second-wave feminists and the war in Vietnam, it shows the viewpoint of four girls on the inside looking out. Not merely a chick-flick, maybe one for the guys too, and the perfect combination of a popcorn movie and a serious one.
The film is based on the account by writer Susanna Kaysen of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. Stars Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, and Elisabeth Moss.