Girl, Interrupted (1999) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
389 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
8/10
Outstanding performances
rolose10 February 2000
The absolute best thing about this film are the knockout performances by it's 2 main stars Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie though both characters (hence performances) are very different they stand out nonetheless. It seems to me to be somewhat easier to play a psychotic than to play a regular neurotic, so who really has the better portrayal of the two?

Brittany Murphy as "Daisy" shines in her scenes. She is a force to reckon with in her future film career.

James Mangold directed this film quite nicely from a very good screenplay; he managed to portray all these young women as young women in turmoil. No melodrama, no over the top sentimentality, just a frank peek into their tumultuous lives.

It is a heavy drama, so be forewarned! And a very moving drama at that.
58 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Brief critique-- 9/10 Excellent drama and lyric insight
moviebuffgirl27 January 2000
I came to the film with low expectations. I was simply stunned by how good it was.

Angelina Jolie is an absolutely PHENOMENAL actress. Her performance alone is worth watching the movie for. But unlike show-stoppers like Marissa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinnie," merely shines the brightest light in a luminescent cast.

The cinematography was innovative, but not distractingly so-- "Girl Interupted" shines primarily for its dramatic power, not as a mind-blowing work of art. It will not explode your vision of the mundane world in the same way that "American Beauty" might, but it will certainly probe you to question your way of seeing the world-- at least psychologically.

Winona Ryder challenged my preconception of her, and proved herself as more than a pretty-girl. Her performance was convincing as Suzanna, a confused high-school graduate who is eloquent and insightful on paper yet unable to a rticulate her own desperate melancholy.

The movie takes place primarily in the women's ward of a mental institution and follows the dynamic friendship between Lisa (Jolie's character) and Suzanna. Lisa is a kinetic, dynamic personality who cuts right to the "truth" of things. Her "truth" knows no boundaries and she is a controlling person prone to violence. Her piercing insights about people and social recklessness led to her to be institutionalized as a sociopath.

This is not a depressing film. Rather, it is suprisingly life-affirming. Not cloying, not sacherine, but not inpenetrably dark, either. Anyone seeking an angst-ridden portrayal of abuses in mental institutions should check out Jack Nicholson's "One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest."

This film has little of the violent anger of that old classic. Yet it does echo some of the ebulience, the defiance of authority and embracing of freedom at sometimes incalculable cost.

Performances by Whoppie Goldberg (in a serious and nuanced role) and Vanessa Redgrave were excellent, as expected.

With the exception of a few holywood gimmicks, predictable cuts and music, this is a nearly flawless film. Dead-on dramatically, and excellently scripted and based on an eloquent true-story by Suzana Keisen, this movie offers a glimpse of one intensely personal experience of truth. Without the quotation marks, dark cynicism, or pretensions that revelation so frequently entails.
126 out of 147 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great Movie!
gabi25 January 2000
The most striking and yet most frustrating part of `Girl, Interrupted' is that everybody that's been 19 years old can relate to Susanna, the main character. Based on her memoir, the film portrays Susanna Kaysen's short stay in a famous mental hospital, supposedly to cure her `borderline personality disorder.' Set in the late 1960's, Winona Ryder effectively portrays Kaysen.

In a tradition reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, the audience knows there is nothing actually wrong with Kaysen, except that she is a typical teenager, and refuses to conform to the life her parents want for her. However, after spending some time with her ward mates and numerous doctors, she starts to believe that she is insane, but can't understand why or what exactly is wrong with her. At one point, she asks a sympathetic nurse (played by Whoopi Goldberg) how she is expected to be cured if she doesn't even understand her illness. Throughout the film, writer James Mangold's exploration of Kaysen's changing emotions and attempts to understand her `illness' is captivating.

However, even more fascinating than Kaysen herself were the supporting characters. Perhaps the most striking of these characters though, is Lisa, played by Angelina Jolie. Jolie completely immerses herself in the role, and gives a moving, intriguing and haunting performance as Susanna's best friend at the hospital. Although Ryder does an excellent job portraying the earnestness and confusion of her character, Jolie is the true star of this movie.

Adapted from Kaysen's memoir, the film works well to bring Kaysen's' words to life. The parts that were altered for the screenplay made sense, allowing the story to translate well to the screen. Additionally, the length of the film allowed for more depth and details to be explored, which sometimes left out of Kaysen's short novel. Thus, the film helped add onto and bring more understanding to characters which were introduced in the novel.
98 out of 115 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Fine showcase for Ryder
Sean Gallagher17 January 2000
It's always tough in today's goal-obsessed society to be someone who isn't quite sure what they want, but woman and minorities especially have it tough, because they seem to be automatically assigned "roles" for them(if you're a woman, even today, people still ask you when you're going to get married; if you're black and look big, people ask if you're an athlete). In the 60's, author Susanna Kaysen was in a similar position; she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, but knew she didn't quite fit into the norm. Because of that, and because of some legitimate problems(she tried to kill herself by swallowing a bottle of aspirin), she went into a mental hospital and was tagged with having "borderline personality disorder," a catch-all phrase which meant whatever the doctors wanted it to mean. From her experiences in the hospital, Kaysen wrote the book GIRL, INTERRUPTED(the title comes from a Vermeer painting), and now comes the movie version from James Mangold and Winona Ryder.

Mangold's first two films, HEAVY and COPLAND, were both about main characters leading lives of quiet desperation; the pizza chef in HEAVY unable to express himself, and the partly sheriff in COPLAND who must learn to assume his responsibility with that position. Susanna fits in with those two characters, and Mangold does just as good a job with her, except for some melodramatic scenes near the end. There are some major themes going on here, like whether Susanna is really crazy, just spoiled, or conditioned to think something is wrong with her, the nature of what "crazy" is in the 60's, and of course being a woman at the time, but Mangold avoids making big statements for the most part, instead concentrating on Susanna's growth into being a little more sure of herself.

As has been said before, Ryder brings a lot to the table, not just being a talented actress, but life research, having spent time in a hospital due to exhaustion(this is why she pulled out of GODFATHER PART III as well). And instead of going for obvious drama, she too just makes Susanna's recovery a gradual and detailed journey, except for those melodramatic scenes. The first third, which seems to be influence by SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, flashes back and forth through time, as if showing Susanna feeling lost and fragmented. The rest of the movie is more linear, but Ryder doesn't make it boring.

Some people have dismissed this as a chick ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, which is the usual knee-jerk response whenever a mostly female cast tackles what is normally done with a mostly male cast. In truth, they're very different movies, primarily because in CUCKOO, we're meant to see the hospital staff, represented by Nurse Ratched, as evil, trying to break down the patients rather than build them up. Here, on the other hand, while we're meant to see the system's shortcomings(in addition to what I said before, the different meanings of "promiscuous" when applied to men and women), the hospital staff is generally seen as trying to do the best they can. The patients may make fun of the doctors(well-played by Jeffrey Tambor and Vanessa Redgrave) and occasionally challenge the nurses(head nurse Whoopi Goldberg gives her best performance in a long time), but there's no real hatred here, except maybe from Lisa.

Angelina Jolie certainly has a flashy role with Lisa, the resident sociopath, but makes her seem real, until the movie betrays her at the end. When she's pushing people's buttons, she's actually quite sly about it, which is a lot more multi-dimensional than some have made it out to be. The rest of the cast playing patients is also good(it was a little heartbreaking seeing Elisabeth Moss playing a burn victim, especially when they show a picture of her as a young girl, where she looks like she did in IMAGINARY CRIMES). But it's Ryder who is the main reason for seeing this fine movie.
86 out of 106 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Quite Likeable!
drake blueskull24 April 2002
In more ways than one, 'Girl Interrupted' is very similar to 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest'. To begin with both the films are set in mental institutions and chronicle life as it unfolds amidst those bland, white walls. Characters in both the film are acutely lifelike. But owing perhaps to it being a true story, 'Girl Interrupted' has characters that are much easier to identify with than McMurphy's brigade. Set in the 60's, the film is an account of the times spent in the Mental Institution by an eighteen year girl, Susanna Kaysen, a character portrayed with astonishing brilliance by the versatile Winona Ryder.

Susanna is a victim of neurosis, great expectations, confusion, an uncertain future and the sundry other problems an average teenager's life are pounded with. For all her brilliance, Susanna has the undeniable gift of the cynic and the pessimist, who still hasn't made up her mind about life's meaning and is upset about it. She has the nagging feeling that her character is incomplete and gets caught in the depressing vortex of tendencies that earn her the title of, what we're later told, a border line personality. An almost successful but unintentional suicide attempt lands her in the footsteps of Claymoore, a mental instituition. In the confined borders of the instituition, Susanna is surprised to discover how well she identifies with the pain and flaws of fellow inmates. Here, the atmosphere is sans any prejudice or cliches. Here, everyone is a victim one way or the other. Far from the deplorable world outside the instituition, susanna feels that she's finally home. And it is this atmosphere that slowly gives way to the realisation of her actual needs, her character and her purpose.

In the first half of the film, the director employs an interesting technique of fusing two different scenes and establishing a coherence that not only takes the story forward but at the same time tells us what is already past. Apart from Susanna and maybe Lisa, few characters are generously sketched. This, although, doesn't allow the loosening of the plot's grip on you. Furthermore, the institution is projected in a more agreeable light and the resultant sympathy for the characters ( unlike 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest') does not coincide with an abhorrence towards the angle of treatment. The movie does lead the viewer to understand the plight of the inmates, but not with the object of establishing the reasons that led to their condition. Rather it concentrates on the way these girls face their fate, day in and day out. It also highlights the way the girls identify with each others problems, hopes and desires in a fashion that alternates between being poignant and amusing.

Perhaps the most distinct factor about the movie is the exemplary performances put up by a cast that mostly comprises of females. I haven't seen a film that could hold its own without a single male lead, as good as this movie does. Winona Ryder is very convincing as Susanna. Angelina Jolie delivers so well that I am having a hard time getting over the fact that she agreed to Lara Croft. Whoopi Goldberg is good but her role is regrettably restricted. Constrained performances by all the actresses make this film worthy of being watched. It is funny, sad, mischievous and optimistic all at the same time.

Watch it if you can for it is very unlikely that you would get disappointed. Like I said it is quite likeable!
43 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
jaundiced beauty, and vaccine of the soul
derek.webster16 January 2000
How good is Angelina Jolie in this film? It is a testament to this young actor's presence that even as dark and soul sickened and gloriously decaying as her character is, there is not a frame in this film that doesn't feel her infection.

Winona Rider is equally excellent as the psychologically confused (or is it enlightened?) hero forced to navigate the depths of her own psyche. The interplay between these two is somehow able to range from the enchanting to the exquisitely painful; but from beginning to end remains capable of leaving you breathless.

Presented with the softly rendered and absorbing visualization of a young girl's decent into psychological insecurity; it is a hauntingly supple progression toward the half understood disturbance of what we might have experienced. If you've ever questioned your own sanity or escaped periods of exceptional melancholy in your life, this film is certain to trigger old fears. But it is also certain to remind you how exquisite and simple salvation can often be.

Refreshingly unlike any of the myriad of fine 'expose' films detailing the darker side of madness (see Roman Polanski's 'Repulsion') or even those with a more poli-social agenda (see Milos Foreman's 'One Flew Over the Cookoo's nest'); 'Girl, Interrupted' achieves a very rare victory in modern film. It conjures enough unnerving insight to bring us scintilatingly close to its most macabre moments; while sewing atop this a spiritual safety net. One capable of the mental restoration that must bring us back to the security of our well cushioned theatre seat. All movement in between remains internal; a lingering memory of personal identification and cathartic resolution.

One look into Angelina Jolie's eyes and you will see the warm, jaundiced decay of a soul no longer battling with sanity. Fear is born of those eyes when you realize how strongly they've tempted your own tired efforts...even as the second look delves closer to a bleakness bearing fruition beyond existential suicide. This film deserves that second look, as well as its painful salvation: a jaundiced beauty whose tragic death is no less healing than the memory of a lost friend.
84 out of 107 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Incredible performances and an enormously involving narrative. ***1/2 (out of four)
Movie-1222 June 2001
GIRL, INTERRUPTED / (1999) ***1/2 (out of four)

By Blake French:

"Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60's. Or maybe I was just a girl... interrupted."

Those are some of the most memorable lines from James Mangold's honest, heartfelt drama "Girl Interrupted." The speaker is Susanna Kaysen, played by Winona Ryder. The film is based on the memoir of Kaysen herself, re-encountering the experiences she actually spent in a mental institution after an attempted suicide. The book of the same name was published in 1993; it spent time on almost every best-seller list, including 11 weeks on the New York Times.

It was in the 1980's when Kaysen began to revisit the most formative time in her life-20 years after the actual hospitalization. Memories of a nearly two-year stay at McLean Psychiatric Hospital, a private and exclusive institution near Cambridge, resurfaced while constructing her second book. She began writing vignettes of her experiences in the hospital, writing short stories about a time in her life she had not discussed for two decades.

"The only thing that ever made me less loony was writing," remembers Cambridge, Massachusetts-based writer Susanna Kaysen, author of her memoir, "Girl, Interrupted." Set in the turbulent 60's, the film details the young Kaysen, who finds herself at a mental institution for disturbed young women. Susanna makes friends, including a seductive and dangerous regular named Lisa (Angelina Jolie).

I have never read this book, but after watching "Girl, Interrupted" I am seriously considering it. The film is a powerful exploration into a depressing, bleak situation. When this movie was released theatrically in late 1999, I wondered how many people would want to see something about a young writer who tries to kill herself and then spends time in a nut-house. However, I was wrong to presume anything. "Girl, Interrupted" contains a vivid, convincing world for its characters, but never do we feel awkward while watching this film, but involved and concerned.

Screen-adapters James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, and Anna Hamilton Phelan construct a central character that is both consistent and empathetic. As the movie opens, we never see Kaysen's suicide attempt-there is no need to show it. This is a film about the results, not the action. We gradually learn about Kaysen as the movie progresses, thus the lack of initial character development. Even with little introductory material to establish her character, Winona Ryder creates a soothing, intriguing sole for Kaysen. The audience cares about Susanna before we even understand why she was sent to the mental institution.

The film's supporting cast, including Jared Leto, Clea Duvall, Elizabeth Moss, Jeffrey Tambor, Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave, and Angelina Jolie, who won an Academy Award for her performance, actually develops the mood of the film-an essential aspect of its overall impact. James Mangold ("Copland") has a ambiguous style here, but it works extraordinarily well in this film. "Girl, Interrupted" should do wonders for Susanna Kaysen's book; after watching the film, it is hard not to want to read the memoir.
44 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
That Girl
marshallbandit23 August 2000
"Borderline personality disorder" is one of those phrases that says more about the people who invented it than it does about the patient it's supposed to describe. When Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) the 18-year old heroine of "Girl Interrupted" enters Claymoore hospital, a psychiatric facility outside Boston, she is diagnosed with the syndrome - but in fact, all she's done is made a hapless suicide attempt and acted slack and mopey and lost in her sober daydreams. Her personality isn't borderline -- it's self-pitying and indulgent. Fortunately, the film understands this. Set in 1967, and adapted from Kaysen's memoir of her two-year experience as an adolescent in the throes of a middle-class crack up, "Girl Interrupted" is shrewd, tough and lively - a junior-league "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" that never makes the mistake of portraying its protagonist as a victim-naif. She's more like the original poster child for Prozac Nation: a girl who'd rather interrupt her own life, even if it means going a little crazy, than grow up.

Susanna is thrown in with a turbulent gallery of disturbed young women. They range from a girl who tried to burn her own face off to one who won't eat anything but chicken from her father's deli (she stores the carcasses under the bed). Most of the patients are harmless, but Lisa (Angelina Jolie) a heartless, charismatic sociopath, delights in her destructive power. Jolie brings the kind of combustible sexuality to the screen that our movies, in the age of Meg Ryan have been missing for too long. As Susanna and Lisa become comrades, then enemies, Susanna becomes like a space cadet fighting a secret war with herself, and through Lisa she plays out that war. The film allows Ryder to trace Susanna's gradual emergence from her "borderline" state as she confronts the cruel truth of mental illness.

Directed with satisfying authority by James Mangold, "Girl Interrupted" is really about the thorny neurotic underside of a contemporary young woman's struggle to leave childhood behind. By the end, you feel that Ryder, at long last, has done that as an actress.
69 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Excellent
acmcac29 January 2000
My eighteen year old daughter and I went to see this movie last night, it was excellent! A must see! Even though I cried through the whole last hour of this movie, it was not a sad film, but a lifting of the human "spirit"! Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie were magnificent. The supporting cast was outstanding. I was amazed when reading the credits at the end that Winona Ryder was an executive producer. Angelina Jolie deserved her Golden Globe Award, she should definately get an Oscar nod if not the win. Winona Ryder deserves some accolades for this wonderful and very enlighting film! Kudos to everyone involved. A Masterpiece!
65 out of 88 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
magnificent
TheNorthernMonkee7 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS Let's be honest for a moment. As humanity settles itself into a new millennium, there are so many aspects of life which we remain ignorant about. One aspect in particular is the realm of the human mind. With countless philosophical theories designed to explain the interaction between the brain and the body, science is still at a major loss to explain it. In the modern world we deal with the mentally ill through discussion and pumping them full of drugs. It's a practise which has been in use for decades in one form or another and it remains a practise which treats the ill with a varied degree of success.

If we look back in time at the 1960s however, the process was of a similar format. People would be locked in an institute, pumped full of drugs, and often for the simple fact that their behaviour was different to the social climate. "Girl, Interrupted" was a book written by a woman who experienced this case of affairs and whilst altered slightly in story, the film adaptation is a brilliant story which raises more questions about mental health, than it cares to answer.

Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is a "promiscuous" rebel who spends her time depressed and pondering her death. With an alternative point of view to people of her time (but a mind-scape that most modern teenage Goths would probably agree with) she finds herself placed in a mental hospital. There she meets interesting people, both doctors and patients, as she tries to come to terms with her own mind.

Sometimes labelled as the female equivalent of "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest", "Girl, Interrupted" is a clever film which leaves you questioning your mental health throughout. Based on the book by Susanna Kaysen, it has insider information giving it a solid basis.

In the lead role, Winona Ryder gives perhaps her finest performance to date as she questions everything around her before she begins to question herself. Whether she ever really needs the hospital in the first place, or whether it does her any good or not, is open to interpretation, but from the first moments of the film, she keeps us involved with the character and never allows us to stop caring about her.

In a mirror image of Ryder, Angelina Jolie plays the sociopathic Lisa. Coming from a broken home, Lisa is another of these characters who you find it very difficult to understand just how sane she is. Jolie manages to give the character an air of menace throughout the film, whether friendly or aggressive. She provides a solid character, and whilst Ryder arguably deserved more award recognition for her role, Jolie is definitely worthy of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar which she won with this role.

Both women's superb performances are also helped by some great acting by the rest of the cast. Including an impressive Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall, Whoopi Goldberg, Jared Leto and Vanessa Redgrave, the acting is always above standard and hard to fault.

In a time of social revolution, there was (as is ever) a thin line between genius and insanity. Whilst people like Martin Luther King changed the world, there were others who were locked up for mental instability. Whether they were truly insane or not is a difficult question to answer. But set at this time of great importance, it is magnificent films like "Girl, Interrupted" that ironically open our minds and get us thinking. Highly recommended.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews