Girl, Interrupted (1999), dir. James Mangold. Starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Brittany Murphy. Written by James Mangold, Lisa Loomer & Anna Hamilton Phelan, based on the book by Susanna Kaysen. 127 minutes.
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.
In 1993, Susanna Kaysen wrote a memoir about her time spent in psychiatric care in the 1960s. Six years later, a feature film based upon it was released, to mostly positive reviews. Kaysen, however, hated the film, labelling it “melodramatic drivel”.
Her attitude bothers me, as with many other writers who are silly enough to let their books be adapted into films while relinquishing creative control. I get it, you’re precious about the book you wrote, but surely you could have done something to ensure it gets adapted the way you would want it to be.
And on the subject of adaptation, I will say that if you can’t enjoy a film based on a book for its own merits, rather than as an adaptation, I feel sorry for you. Film is a completely different medium to literature. It will always be different to the source material. So yeah, the film is quite different to the book, but if you’re a fan Kaysen’s memoir, you should still be able to enjoy the film – it’s very well made, so just accept it as being different and enjoy it.
The film is probably most famous for Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-winning turn as sociopath Lisa Rowe. She steals every scene with her charm, temper and in-your-face attitude. It really is a powerhouse performance, and it solidified Jolie as a movie star. Lisa Rowe is definitely one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever come across.
With that said, you can’t help but feel sorry for Winona Ryder, as her performance is largely forgotten. This was supposed to be her movie, and Angelina completely stole her thunder. But Winona’s performance is just as good, though a lot more subtle. Susanna is a complex character: mature yet immature, insightful yet confused, and apathetic yet caring, and Ryder plays the part very convincingly. She is one of my favourite actresses, and this film proves why.
Supporting performances from Whoopi Goldberg as kind but stern nurse Valerie, Brittany Murphy as deeply troubled Daisy, and Vanessa Redgrave as head psychiatrist Dr. Wick are all excellent as well. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Valerie throws Susanna in a bath to get her out of bed, and tells her off for being so ungrateful about her situation.
I’d highly recommend seeing this film. The performances are all first class, the film is well-paced, it’s funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Great movie.