"Haven't you ever confused a dream with reality, stolen something when you
had the cash, or thought your train moving as it sat in the station?" she
pleads with us in the opening scenes. But that's not the kind of behaviour
she's being locked up for. This is a young lady who responds "What?" whenever
anyone asks her a question, drifts into daydreaming in the middle of
sentences and thinks it's perfectly acceptable to guzzle great quantities of
pills and vodka.
Her name is Susanna Kaysen, a real-life figure whose book this movie is based
on. If the film is anything to go by, I'm lucky that I never read it. "Girl,
Interrupted" is a pathetic example of someone denying she's in denial; it's
as stupid as Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar" without the engaging style. There
are journal entries in the film we're supposed to accept as profound
philosophising. Most of them are just the kind of pretentious
stream-of-consciousness drivel that many teenage girls write, only to look
back on years later and cringe with embarrassment.
The story is set in the 1960s -- boys are being shipped to their deaths in
Vietnam, and Susanna (Winona Ryder) thinks she's got a hard life because her
mother is hassling her about going to college. After a suicide attempt, she
is encouraged to sign herself into Claymoore, an expensive mental hospital
where the head nurse (Whoopi Goldberg) gives a straightforwardly accurate
diagnosis: "You are a lazy, self-indulgent little girl who is driving herself
Susanna does a lot of mellow lying around, drunk on her own superiority,
convinced she's "artistic" rather than crazy. Fellow inmate Lisa (Angelina
Jolie) offers her support, probably because the two women have the same
problem -- thinking they know the secrets of the universe, when they're
actually defective jerks. Other friendly faces include a pathological liar
(Clea Duvall) and a girl who likes to set herself on fire (Elisabeth Moss).
Anyone in a position of authority, or who displays the least bit of
conventionality, is portrayed as an uptight white-collar conservative square.
I am reminded of "Reality Bites" (1994), another film starring Ryder in which
the alleged heroes were self-obsessed layabout losers.
"Girl, Interrupted" is moronic and arrogant crap, not least because its
obnoxious onscreen behaviour is accompanied by a voice-over that asks,
essentially, "Can you BELIEVE these stuffed shirts thought I was obnoxious?"
Perhaps the book or true events would lead me to a different conclusion, but
the Susanna Kaysen of this film could use a good hard slap in the face.
Copyright © 2000 UK Critic