Jun 2, 2014

Review: Girl, Interrupted (1999)

James Mangold is an above-average director. He's put together some pretty average movies along with some pretty strong pieces like Walk the Line and the remake of 3:10 to Yuma as his best work. Even the most recent The Wolverine was quite good until its lackluster third act. In all, I would say that Girl, Interrupted is among his better efforts.

Girl, Interrupted is based off of Susanna Kaysen's 1993 memoir. Its rights were scooped up by producer Douglas Wick not too long after its publication. Winona Ryder wanted to secure the rights herself after having read the book but she was too late. However, she was able to team up with Wick as a producer as well and in the end and she had a hand in recruiting James Mangold to the project.


Genre: biography, drama
Directed by: James Mangold
Produced by: Cathy Konrad, Douglas Wick, Carol Bodie, etc.
Written by: James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan
Music by: Mychael Danna
Running time: 127 minutes
Production company: 3 Art Entertainment, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Company Medien KG, etc.
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia TriStar Films de Argentina, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $40,000,000
Box office: $48,350,205 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Jared Leto, Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bettis, Jillian Armenante, Drucie McDaniel, Alison Claire, Christina Myers, Joanna Kerns, Travis Fine, Gloria Barnhart



Girl, Interrupted is about Susanna Kaysen and her struggle to fit in with society. It's 1967 and she is graduating from high school. While everyone around her is on their way to college, she just wants to write. Her inability to fit into the mold results in her attempting to commit suicide and then checking into Claymoore, a mental hospital not far from her home. She makes friends with a diverse group of girls at the hospital in her attempts to recover.


Girl, Interrupted makes a bit of a commentary on mental health that rings pretty true. Susanna, truth be told isn't really sick but she's diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This is back in the 60's and perhaps the diagnosis for BPD has changed but the definition in the movie doesn't sound like a mentally ill individual at all. Susanna is a little bit different from other people but so what? Even today we think that people who don't fit cleanly into a mold are strange but imagine how it was back in the 60's.

Susanna doesn't want to go to college, she just wants to write which causes her parents a lot of grief. Her parents have basically no screen time at all which just goes to show how unsupportive they really are. Susanna is accused of being promiscuous but she makes a fair point in asking how many women it takes for a man to sleep with to be considered promiscuous. Clearly it doesn't matter and a man will never be considered to be promiscuous. Susanna isn't perfect but she isn't insane either, she just needs a bit of a push and a bit of support.

The performances in Girl, Interrupted are extremely good. Winona Ryder is absolutely perfect for the role of Susanna Kaysen. She's got some pretty intense scenes and her passion for the story is very clear. Her acting is a labour of love. Angelina Jolie is the real standout though and she did win an Academy Award for best supporting actress after all. She has a really strong screen presence and on more than one occasion look absolutely batty. The rest of the cast is filled out very nicely with Clea DuVall, Britney Murphy, Jared Leto, Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave and Jeffrey Tambor.

Girl, Interrupted is basically a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-lite. The story is entertaining but it does fail at times. It's predictable on more than one occasion and the final crisis is a bit childish. It's also easily resolved and too convenient. That doesn't stop Girl, Interrupted from being a very enjoyable movie though.

The performances of Girl, Interrupted are what keep it going. Despite some predictability and problem solving ease, it's more than just watchable. The beginning really draws you in with its seemingly crazy timeline and there's a cozy collection of 60's music throughout the soundtrack. Girl, Interrupted can definitely be counted as one of James Mangold's better projects.



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