Recommended Viewing Situation:
Eating spit roasted rotisserie chicken, reading the diary of your greatest nemesis.
Running Time: 127 minutes.
Format: 35mm film.
Director: James Mangold.
Write: Susanna Kaysen (book) James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan (Screenplay).
Cinematographer: Jack N. Green.
Awards: Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, and many more (needless to say – she nailed it).
‘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 60s. Or maybe I was just a girl…interrupted.’ the opening narration from Susanna, (Winona Ryder) a young woman who after a suicide attempt is put into a mental hospital, Claymorre, and is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Girl, Interrupted (1999) is a shockingly vivid display into the infuriating realm of mental illness, painting intense portraits of Susanna’s fellow patients and those that are caring for them. Adapted from the biographical tale of Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted touches on Susanna’s memoirs of her stay in a mental hospital in the 1960’s and is a stunning film that really prods at society’s definition of sanity.
We are introduced to numerous areas of mental health through the incredible characters that are also staying in the same ward as Susanna. Susanna’s roommate Georgina (Clea VuVall) the pathological liar, Daisy (Brittany Murphy) who won’t eat in the presence of other people and Lisa (Angelina Jolie) who is a sociopath. The biggest influence on the girls while in the world of the women’s ward at Claymorre, is Nurse Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg).There are so many more great characters, and as an audience, you really begin to feel part of the group, you want to join in when they go bowling and you feel sympathetic when they sit around reading what the therapist has written about them. In fact, there is one particular scene in the film that is set in an ice cream parlour: the girls all take their turn in ordering but Susanna is distracted as she spots a woman that knows her and does her best to avoid being noticed. Lisa sees this and makes a scene of her ordering a big sundae, listing off toppings and setting the clerk up to say ‘Nuts?’- all of the girls cower in hysterics. As the woman approaches Susanna to confront her, the girls in the ward team up to drive her away by barking and howling in her direction. It is a real turning point in the film where we see Susanna finally feel part of something and we are right there with her, beginning to understand her surroundings, why she is there and that the other girls in the ward are good people too.
The soundtrack to the film is incredibly dominant; I for one can never hear Downtown by Petula Clark and not be taken back to the scene of Susanna and Lisa singing and playing the guitar to comfort Polly. It is a powerful choice of song and the whole narrative of the film changes the meaning of that song, it links the stories of the girls with this commonality, this sense of finding a happy place. Girl, Interrupted is a beautiful film tackling themes of confusion, betrayal and the influence of others when one’s mind is fragile.