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Girl, Interrupted

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Girl, Interrupted

Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie
Director: James Mangold
Rated: R
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: January 2000
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave, Clea Duvall, Brittany Murphy, Elizabeth Moss, Jared Leto, Jeffrey Tambor, Travis Fine

Review by John Beachem
2 stars out of 4

Before I begin, allow me to point out that this is hardly the type of movie I would normally review, thus my opinion may be a tad biased. That said, "Girl, Interrupted" is a rather unoriginal film (think of an all female version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") with some wonderful performances, but without a great story to pull them together. In fact, I'm having difficulty determining just what the point of this film was. If there were there a stronger plot at work here, I believe this could have been a good little flick.

Susanna (Winona Ryder) has the distinction of being the only member of her graduating class not going on to college. Due to this and several other minor mental problems (such as taking a bottle of Asprin with a Vodka chaser), her parents have decided the best place for her is Claymoore mental institute. While there, she meets the sociopathic Lisa (Angelina Jolie), whom she forms a friendship with. The two are soon driving the head nurse, Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg), up a wall, and they decide the time has come for them to leave the institute.

In addition to the uninvolving plot, we're given a story that is more than a little implausible. The girls in this hospital seem able to leave the premises whenever they feel like it simply by sneaking out through hidden tunnels and picking locks. I know this is based on the book by Susanna Kaysen, and the book is based on her real life experiences, but this still seems more than a little implausible. Another rather irritating idea which is used here involves the girls never taking their medication, but simply hiding and trading pills. This isn't used to advance the plot in any way, it simply goes further to show how ridiculously unbelievable the story is.

The reason to see this movie, and the reason I gave it three stars rather than two and a half, is the acting. Angelina Jolie is in top form here as the manipulative, unpredictable Lisa. I haven't been a large fan of Jolie in the past; but I believe part of this is due to her choosing the wrong roles, such as those in "The Bone Collector" and "Tin Cup". Wynona Ryder may not be quite as effective as the ever confused Susanna, but she's still more than simply adequate. She's given some interesting dialogue near the beginning of the film, where she attempts to describe her illness to a doctor. The supporting cast is uniformly good, with especially interesting performances from Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, and Elizabeth Moss as fellow patients; and look for a particularly good cameo by Vanessa Redgrave as a psychiatrist

At times, "Girl, Interrupted" is more a comedy than a drama, and I personally wish it had tried to be comedy a bit more often. For example, a scene in which the girls are taken to an ice cream parlor is hysterical; but it grows serious again far too quickly, and you begin missing these moments of humor. The film runs a tad too long at 127 minutes, and it never seems to know when to end. We keep expecting each scene to be the last, but another soon follows. I can't quite recommend "Girl, Interrupted" in theatres, but I would suggest trying to catch it on video, if for no other purpose, to see Angelina Jolie's remarkable performance. I give it three stars.

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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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