Girl, Interrupted - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Girl, Interrupted Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
April 8, 2017
In my review of The Departed, I spoke about how winning an Oscar can often tie either a film or a person associated with it eternally to that achievement. That level of cinematic immortality (or in some cases infamy) is the level of success for which most actors and filmmakers would kill, even with the need to take the Academy's decisions both past and present with a pinch of salt. But if someone is rewarded for giving a particular performance or doing something especially well, it creates the pressure to always be that good (or always do that one thing) from thereon in.

It seems to be particularly the case with female Oscar winners that their careers begin to buckle under this newfound pressure. Julia Roberts has never topped Erin Brockovich, Halle Berry quickly faded after Monster's Ball, and both Tatum O'Neill and Shirley Temple saw a decline in the fortunes after their respective wins. There are male examples of this too (like Cuba Gooding Jr., for instance), but given the many twists and turns of Angelina Jolie's career, you may well put her in the same category. However, while her work on Girl, Interrupted is not her finest performance overall - that would be A Mighty Heart - it is the jewel in the crown of this cinematic masterpiece.

Given its subject matter and its status as an adaptation of a popular novel, it's very tempting to simply label Girl, Interrupted as the female One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Aside from the common setting of a mental hospital, both stories play with the concept of the unreliable narrator, both set up character dynamics based on manipulation and defiance of authority, and both end on a decidedly bittersweet note. Both authors also have front-line experience of the mental health industry, if such a word is not to crude; while Girl, Interrupted author Susanna Keysen spent two years as a patient on a psychiatric ward, Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey spent some time working as an orderly on the graveyard shift at a facility in California.

You would expect, given their respective backgrounds, that Cuckoo's Nest would take a structural perspective on institutionalisation (as The Shawshank Redemption later did) while Girl, Interrupted would be a personal, memory-driven story, like the original novel was. In fact, what's interesting about the film of Girl, Interrupted - directed and co-scripted by James Mangold - is that it is very interested in the structural problems present within the American system. It manages to pull off the same rare trick as Milos Forman's film, being simultaneously a deeply personal depiction of the nuances of mental illness and the ways in which the existing structures of American society let people down and dehumanise them.

Girl, Interrupted also pulls off another trick, namely being a period piece which still has applications to contemporary society. On the one hand, it is a fascinating time capsule of the late-1960s and the role of young people therein: American society is in the grip of unprecedented social change, with many of its most established and respected institutions being questioned at their core, and no-one truly knows how to deal with young people. While in other stories Susanna would have run away to join a rock band, or robbed a bank, or sought out spiritual enlightenment (a la Zabriskie Point), her parents lock her away so that they don't have to deal with her problems. They choose their dated values and maintaining their social standing over trying to understand their own children, foreshadowing the conservative backlash against the counter-culture that was already starting to creep in.

On the other hand, Girl, Interrupted is a more universal story of people who simply cannot help who they are. We aren't given a straightforward, overly pat explanation for why Suzanna ended up at the asylum; it's not put down to a family trauma, or blamed on her being 'sinful', or anything so cheap and inappropriate. Neither is her illness ever presented to us as being something that can be easily conquered, whether by positive thinking or taking the right number of pills: it's a painful, long-term anguish which some learn to live with and others tragically cannot face. Like Adrian Brody's character in The Pianist, Suzanna is not so much a hero as a survivor, and while she does break from the other characters by making it out in one piece, she has been irrevocably changed by her experience, for better and for worse.

Winona Ryder as an actress has always had a knack for capturing disconnection from other people, whether it's the older generation (Edward Scissorhands), her high school peers (Heathers) or her competitors (Black Swan). While Jolie often threatens to steal away the limelight, her performance is equally crucial to prevent the film from just being a collection of loud, angry, mad people about whom we would have no reason to care. Like Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys before her, she stays just the right side of busy and histrionic, making the outbursts convincing and meaningful but also allowing the quiet moments to speak volumes. It's a very fine performance which deserved to be recognised just as much as Jolie's.

As for Jolie herself, she deserved most if not all of the plaudits she received both then and now. I said in my review of Wanted that she "always been in her element inhabiting individuals who are in some way damaged, conflicted, morally ambiguous or self-doubting". She takes Lisa, who could just be a sociopathic, controlling bitch, and slowly but surely teases out all the character's frustrations, neuroses and her emptiness as a person. If you ever want to prove to a non-fan that there is more to Jolie than losing gorgeous or kicking ass, show them the sequence near the end of this film where she breaks down and attempts suicide. It's a gut-wrenchingly honest and powerful moment which goes some way towards cementing this film's greatness.

One of the criticisms that was made of Girl, Interrupted when it was released is that it was "melodramatic" - in other words, that Mangold had toned down and smoothed out the book to give the audience some form of closure over the character. Keysen herself was displeased with the adaptation, branding the section in which Susanna and Lisa try to escape as "drivel" and criticising the filmakers for "inventing" whole sections which never reflected her story. It's difficult to argue that this is the most faithful adaptation in the history of cinema, but as with The Imitation Game there is an argument for departing from the letter of historical fact if a deeper, more thematic truth is presented to the audience as a result.

The key scene in the film, if not the key line, comes during Lisa's breakdown, when Suzanna declares: "Maybe everybody out there is a liar. And maybe the whole world is "stupid" and "ignorant". But I'd rather be in it. I'd rather be fucking in it, then down here with you." This is the major breakthrough that the character experiences, acknowledging her own failures and the shortcomings of the world outside, but realising that the only way out is to learn to deal with it, one day at a time.

If that revelation, and that whole scene, had come out of nowhere, then the film would have felt melodramatic, with the characters having to bend to the needs of the plot after an hour or so of character-driven storytelling. But the escape beforehand lends it greater credibility, or at least makes the development more believable for an audience which has not endured her suffering. The taste of the outside world Susanna is given with Lisa and Daisy is bittersweet, and what joy they experience from their release is short-lived, shattered by Daisy's demise and Lisa's callous attitude towards it. This is not a fairy tale in which the outside world is free from trouble; it is a different kind of prison, albeit one in which there are many different ways of dealing with what ails u. If nothing else, Girl, Interrupted deserves credit for taking such a mature approach while pitching to a predominantly younger audience.

Girl, Interrupted also looks fantastic, thanks in part to cinematographer Jack N. Green, who previously worked with Clint Eastwood on Unforgiven and The Bridges of Madison County. Both he and Mangold share a love of period detail and a desire to use historical quirks to shed light on character and mood; the drug store with simply 'Drugs' on the shopfront is both an accurate reflection of the setting and a nod to the blunt, unhelpful nature of the treatment. Mangold's compositions alternate between intimate and intimidating, judging when to switch very deftly, and the colour scheme beautifully reflects the worn, frayed nature of the protagonists' mental states; the screen is filled with browns and worn yellows, the white surgical robes are dusty, and even the hospital has a tumble-down, faded quality.

Girl, Interrupted is a powerful and compelling examination of mental illness which has aged extremely well and still resonates with modern audiences. While the central performances remain both its driving force and its most famous characteristic, the film has great depth and honesty throughout, shedding light on a lot of important issues regarding mental health, abuse, manipulation and dependency. Regardless of what Susanna Keysen may think, it is a truly stunning film that should be seen by anyone who has the stomach for it.
½ April 3, 2017
Half hour too long. Rambles without much point to make. Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie are good, but the whole mental institution bit's been done too many times before. No new take or major revelations here. What's with Jolie's lips? Collagen injections or did she really get all that from her daddy?
½ March 14, 2017
Great reminder of how talented Angelina is, no one can do a crazy person better than her.

Powerful movie about mental illness and the haunting grip that your mind can have on you which often lead to suicidal notions.
½ February 25, 2017
Girl, Interrupted is a brilliantly directed film with spectacular performances and a good soundtrack. Winona Ryder is good and her character, along with everyone else, was interesting and likeable. But it's Angelina Jolie who is in scintillating, Oscar winning form as a psychotic whirlwind who steals every scene she is in. The best performance of her career for sure. The screenplay helps of course and the underlying themes make the final act hit harder than it would otherwise.
February 13, 2017
Very interesting film about Susan Kaysen, who go to the psychiatric hospital, where she find a new friends.
February 8, 2017
A powerful drama set in a mental institution. Strong acting from the entire cast, but Angelina Jolie was particularly impressive. This has to be the best of her career. (First and only full viewing - In my mid-twenties)
February 7, 2017
Based on the memoir of the same name by Susanna Kaysen. Susanna (Ryder) is depressed and directionless after finishing high school in the late 1960s. After a brief affair with her high school English teacher, a suicide attempt lands her in Claymore, a mental institution, and she is diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder. She befriends the band of troubled women on her ward (Georgina the pathological liar, the sexually abused Daisy, the burn victim Polly) but falls under the hypnotic sway of Lisa (Jolie), the wildest and most hardened of the bunch. Will Susanna "drop anchor" at Claymore and perpetually act out like Lisa, or will she finally pull her mind together and leave institutional life behind?
October 15, 2016
I barley remember this but i know i saw it.
September 24, 2016
A little over the top and by-the-numbers, nevertheless, I found myself very touched by 'Girl, Interrupted', terrific performances and a strangely relatable story. A soulful picture with a lot to give. Maybe not a game-changing but for god's sake, it's great film.
August 20, 2016
This story kept me interested and the performances are great. I'm surprised critics didn't like it more.
August 10, 2016
I've been searching for many years for one of Angelina Jolie's finest pieces of acting work. She may have first came to my attention from Tomb Raider but films like Gia and Changeling made me consider her on of my top 5 favorites among actresses. But I must say Girl Interrupted is one of the best of her career.
Based on a true story Susanna kaysen is a young woman suffering from bipolar disorder and is sent up to a mental facility where she meets an array of other girls who suffer from similar if not worse problems than her. During her stay she becomes fascinated with a wild blunt talking girl named Lisa. Susanna's experiences which she would later right all unfold in this film as she tries to discover what is truly wrong with her in the decade where mental facilities where at in all time high, the 60's.
This along with one flew over the cuckoos nest really highlight the rise in usage of mental hospitals in the 60's. some of the most unique slightly insane but still very much human people lived in these places. individuals like this always have stories that make for good movies so definitely a good choice exploring this aspect of this decade. This is pretty well directed too.
Winona Ryder is really terrific here in this role. she's very similar to lisa when she's not in the hospital and lisa sort of helps her become that all the time. it's a real nice arc she goes through. However near the end she starts becoming her own woman and begins to tell the truth in more ways than one about herself and everything around her. ryder should have received an Oscar nomination for this she was amazing here. Angelina jolie did a fantastic job as lisa. she portrays such a zany and wild woman. it's so mysterious for the longest time why she is the way she is and in the end its so sad and tragic what really makes her who she is. In her case the truth hurt her deep reeeeeal deep. this maybe Angelina jolies best role of her career
Really liked the musical choices in here. Its commendable the directors aim at getting across the idea that even if your crazy and insane your still somebody your still a human being. your just different.. there is some real sisterhood here despite how much of an outcast these girls are outside the hospital. the scene in the pipeworks is the best of the whole movie the everyone one was on another level with the acting here. Overall Girl interrupted is stupendous picture.
August 2, 2016
Not bad, Not bad Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie give good performances in a pretty muddled story in a mental institution.
June 20, 2016
Similar to One flew over the cuckoo's nest but with all females. Ryder and Jolie have exceptional performances but the plot had its rocky moments. On the other hand, it was overall a very solid film that grasp the difficulties of diseases and mental hospitals
April 28, 2016
Lisa: You know, there's too many buttons in the world. There's too many buttons and they're just- There's way too many just begging to be pressed,they're just begging to be pressed,you know? They're just - they're just begging to be pressed, and it makes me wonder, it really makes me fucking wonder, why doesn't anyone ever press mine? Why am I so neglected? Why doesn't anyone reach in and rip out the truth and tell me that I'm a fucking whore, or that my parents wish I were dead?
Susanna: Because you're dead already, Lisa! No one cares if you die, Lisa because you're dead already. Your heart is cold. That's why you keep coming back here. You're not free. You need this place, you need it to feel alive. It's pathetic.
Lisa: [falls down to her knees and screams]
Susanna: I've wasted a year of my life. Maybe everyone out there is a liar. And maybe the whole world is "stupid" and "ignorant" but I'd rather be in it. I'd rather be fucking in it than down here with you.

En el año 1967, Susana Kaysen trata de suicidarse. Obligada por sus padres, es internada en un hospital psiquiátrico donde al principio se resiste a creer que pertenece. Ahí conoce a Lisa, una sociopata que la lleva sin darse cuenta a su propia recuperación,

Girl Interrupted en mi opinion es una de las mejores películas que lidia con el tema de las enfermedades mentales. Todos los personajes dentro del hospital tienen una miríada de problemas, pero son escritas como personas polifacéticas, y que no son definidas por sus transtornos, entonces le dan la oportunidad al publico de identificarse con ellas. A pesar de sus traumas logran una conexión entre ellas, y de una u otra manera se acompañan durante este periodo. Lisa, definitivamente la mas problemática, empaña toda esta hermandad y actúa por su odio propio, y quiere que todas las personas alrededor se sientan tan miserable como ella, pero por eso eventualmente es obligada por Susana a verse a ella misma y sentirse obligada a mejorar.

Esta película es fascinante, y todas las escenas son increíblemente complejas y nos dan una mayor comprensión hacia la salud mental. Una de los mayores logros de esta película, es que queda en el espectador unir todas las piezas del rompecabezas. A la final todos los personajes son enigmas, pero si prestas atención a las señales, podemos conocer a cada una de ellas profundamente. Las actuaciones son estelares, especialmente Angelina Jolie interpretando a Lisa, se roba el show. Es una persona destructiva, pero tan carismática, que es imposible dejar de mirarla.

Toda la atmósfera de esta película contribuye a remarcar el estado mental en la que se encuentran estos personajes. La palidez dentro de el hospital psiquiátrico, y el otoño fuera de las premisas, el soundtrack con canciones de esa época pero que hablan de escapar y de dejar todo atrás... Girl Interrupted es de mis películas favoritas, porque es sincera, no trata de endulzar las situaciones, y porque nos da una mirada y por lo tanto empatia, hacia un tema que sigue siendo taboo.
April 2, 2016
It was okay. Nothing amazing in my opinion. The mental breakdowns did catch my attention and are the main reason why I'm giving this movie three stars. I love mental breakdowns in movies.
March 25, 2016
10 de 10! nunca me sentí tan identificada con una pelicula, excepto que cuando yo intenté suicidarme con vodka no me metieron a una institución mental :p
March 19, 2016
Girl Interrupted is a bad movie that no one should ever see and is a movie that should have never been made.
February 28, 2016
The movie that put Angelina on the map... & truly made people recognize her a serious actress... she definitely took the shine off of Winona Ryder in this film.
½ February 4, 2016
There was some good performances but I never felt invested in any character like I thought I should.
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