Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Girl, Interrupted is a 2000 drama film about a teen's 18-month stay at a mental institution, starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, and Brittany Murphy. It was adapted from the original memoir of the same name, written by Susanna Kaysen. The film was directed by James Mangold, from a screenplay written by Mangold, Anna Hamilton Phelan and Lisa Loomer. The original musical score was composed by Mychael Danna. Vanessa Redgrave and Whoopi Goldberg also appear in the film.


Susanna Kaysen (Ryder), 18 years old in April 1967, "voluntarily" (her parents essentially force her to go there, and she is not free to leave until the staff approves her release) checks herself into the fictitious Claymoore Hospital (based on McLean Hospital, the actual institution featured in the memoir), after an overdose of aspirin, and her stay extends for over a year.

She befriends fellow patients Polly "Torch" Clark (Elisabeth Moss), a burn victim; Georgina Tuskin (Clea DuVall), a pathological liar; Daisy Randone (Brittany Murphy), a sexually abused girl with an eating disorder and who cuts herself; Janet Webber (Angela Bettis), an anorexic; Cynthia (Jillian Armenante), whose only disorder seems to be a proclivity to dress like men and is there because her parents don't want to see her; and others, and forms a small troupe of troubled women in her ward. Susanna is enchanted in particular by Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie), who has been diagnosed as a sociopath (as in the book, it is left to interpretation whether she actually is one). Lisa is a force to be reckoned with: she is magnetic, rebellious, won't take her medication and verbally abuses the other patients. Lisa befriends Susanna and together they start causing trouble. Lisa encourages Susanna to stop taking her medications and/or trade them with others, and generally resist the influences of therapy (referred to by the patients as "ther-rape-me").

During a visit outside the ward at a nearby ice cream shop, Susanna is confronted by her mother's friend, the angry wife of a man Susanna had an affair with. The woman harshly berates Susanna, but Lisa intervenes with a verbal assault, horrifying the older woman. Lisa then encourages an uprising among the girls, resulting in everyone barking like dogs. As a result, Lisa loses her outside privileges.

Susanna's former boyfriend, Tobias "Toby" Jacobs (Jared Leto), comes to visit her and she tries to have sex with him in her room. He tells her he wants them to run away to Canada together so that he doesn't have to go to Vietnam. He tells her she isn't crazy and that the girls in the asylum aren't really her friends. But she refuses to go with him, subconsciously beginning to rely on Lisa. This confrontation shows Susanna's progress in her recovery, as it marks the first time that she admits she had tried to kill herself.

It is shown that Polly observes the couple almost wistfully as they speak outside, perhaps reflecting on her own unatractiveness and how it has impeded her from having such devotion from a man. That night, she awakes screaming "My face, my face!". The nurses remove her and place her into solitary confinement with the intention of calming her down, but she continues sobbing. Troubled, Susanna (with the help of Lisa's keys) steals a guitar and they sit outside Polly's room, singing "Downtown" by Petula Clark. Eventually, staff members notice. When an orderly named John (Travis Fine) who has earlier confessed to liking Susanna comes to stop the noise, she pulls him to the ground and kisses him.

The next morning, Susanna is called into the office, where she is analyzed once more. Susanna meets the head psychiatrist, Dr. Sonia Wick (Vanessa Redgrave), and attempts to shut her out with a nasty attitude, telling her that she is "ambivalent" (believing it means she doesn't care). However, Wick sees through her tough facade: she brings out a dictionary and tells her that "ambivalent" actually means being conflicted. Wick decides to have Susanna be her patient from now on. Then Lisa is taken in to see the doctor but doesn't return, and Susanna falls into a depression. The frustrated nurse, Valerie, has had enough and throws Susanna into a cold bath to wake her. After Susanna attacks her verbally Valerie tells Susanna that she "is a lazy, self-indulgent little girl who is driving herself crazy!" She adds that if Susanna isn't careful she'll "throw her life away."

Lisa returns, and she and Susanna break out of Claymoore with the intention of going to work at Walt Disney World Resort as Cinderella and Snow White. They spend the night at the house of the recently released Daisy (Brittany Murphy), whom Lisa antagonizes in her usual fashion, confronting her with her incestuous relationship with her father, and accusing her of enjoying it. It is revealed that Daisy continues cutting herself. Perhaps as a reaction to Lisa's words, Daisy hangs herself the next morning. Lisa shows no remorse for her actions, stealing some money from Daisy's robe before fleeing. Susanna calls the police and returns to the hospital. Susanna also adopts Daisy's cat, Ruby. In the next few weeks, she begins to cooperate with her doctors and responds to her therapy, writing and painting. She is scheduled to be released.

At that point, Lisa is caught and returned by the police. Upon finding out about Susanna's pending release, Lisa targets Susanna for ridicule and emotional abuse. On her last night, Susanna awakens to discover Lisa in the maze of corridors beneath the ward, reading Susanna's diary to Georgina and Polly, including all of the comments she has made about the other residents. The other girls turn on Susanna, with Lisa particularly vicious. In the ensuing dispute, Lisa threatens to stab herself with a large hypodermic needle, but Susanna disarms her. Susanna then launches a pointed verbal attack upon Lisa, telling her that no one cares if Lisa dies because she "already is dead" and her "heart is ice cold", and that Susanna will start her life again out of the hospital without Lisa and everyone else. Her words having hit home, Lisa undergoes a breakdown. Susanna and Lisa reconcile and are found by the staff.

Susanna is released the next day. Before she leaves, she visits Lisa and talks to her again. Lisa says "I'm not really dead". Susanna reassures Lisa that she knows, and that Lisa, a resident at the hospital for eight years, will get out eventually and come see her. As Susanna leaves, she says goodbye to all her friends, giving Polly her adopted cat Ruby, reconciling with Georgina and gets into the cab, saying, "Crazy isn't about being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It's you, or me, amplified..."

At the end of the film, Susanna states that by the 1970s, most of her friends were released and some she saw and some never again. But there wasn't a day "her heart doesn't find them."


Winona Ryder as Susanna Kaysen
Angelina Jolie as Lisa Rowe
Clea DuVall as Georgina Tuskin
Brittany Murphy as Daisy Randone
Elisabeth Moss as Polly "Torch" Clark
Travis Fine as John
Jared Leto as Tobias "Toby" Jacobs
Jeffrey Tambor as Dr. Melvin Potts
Vanessa Redgrave as Dr. Sonia Wick
Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie Owens, RN
Angela Bettis as Janet Webber
Jillian Armenante as Cynthia Crowley
Joanna Kerns as Annette Kaysen
Bruce Altman as Professor Gilcrest
Mary Kay Place as Barbara Gilcrest
Ray Baker as Carl Kaysen
KaDee Strickland as Bonnie Gilcrest
Larry Graeff as the head grounds keeper
Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Crumble
Alison Claire as Nurse Gretta

Author opinion

The author, Susanna Kaysen, was among the detractors of the film, accusing Mangold of adding "melodramatic drivel" to the story by inventing plot points that never happened in the book (such as Lisa and Susanna running away together).[1]


Academy Awards

Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Angelina Jolie

Golden Globe Award

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture — Angelina Jolie

Screen Actors Guild Award

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role — Angelina Jolie


Filming took place along Main Street in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as in Harrisburg State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg was chosen for its old fashioned appearance and its old style drug store simply titled "Drugs," all of which gave the film its time-dated appearance. A shot seen in the trailer shows the van traveling towards downtown Harrisburg over the State Street Bridge, where the Capitol building is clearly visible.[2] Deleted scenes were also filmed at Reading's Public Museum.


1.Merrilee Rush performing "Angel of the Morning"
2.Petula Clark performing "Downtown"
3.Skeeter Davis performing "The End of the World"
4.Aretha Franklin performing "The Right Time"
5.Jefferson Airplane performing "Comin' Back to Me"
6.Them performing "It's All Over Now Baby Blue"
7.The Chambers Brothers performing "Time Has Come Today'"
8.The Band performing "The Weight"
9.The Mamas & the Papas performing "Got a Feeling"
10.Wilco performing "How To Fight Loneliness"
11.Simon & Garfunkel performing "Bookends Theme"


1.^ *Danker, Jared. "Susanna Kaysen, without interruptions", The Justice, February 4, 2003.
2.^ Information on the filming of Girl, Interrupted at Harrisburg State Hospital, including a studio press release on the building and Dorothea Dix.

-- wiki

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