Girl, Interrupted

on December 21, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan
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There is a somber side that the delightful Winona Ryder seems to be able to tap into whenever the role requires it: Think "Beetlejuice," "Dracula" and "Heathers." This time, though, it is a whole other level of darkness as she essays the role of a young woman who checks herself into a mental hospital and then spends more than a year convincing the authorities that she is well enough to leave.
   It is a harrowing portrayal made all the more so by the fact that it is based on the real-life memoir of Susanna Kaysen. Ryder pulls out all the emotional stops and is utterly convincing as the emotionally wounded teenager. Much of her agony is internal, but those soulful eyes tell the story.
   By contrast, co-star Angelina Jolie ("The Bone Collector") plays the palpably crazy Lisa absolutely flat-out. It is a much flashier piece of acting, but it is what the character calls for, and Jolie delivers.
   Sadly, the rest of the inmates seem to have been written two-dimensionally to make it easy for the audience to tell them apart. There is the painfully thin anorexic (Lisa calls her Fats), the uberbutch lesbian, the incest-victim purger and the burn disfigured (Torch, to Lisa), while Whoopi Goldberg gives a low-key performance as the no-nonsense nurse with a heart of gold. The characters' lack of depth unfortunately detracts from some excellent performances. The other problem with the film is that it glosses over what is really wrong with Susanna Kaysen. There is some reference made to the time (it's set in 1968) as being one of identity confusion for some women. But surely you don't spend a year inside for not knowing what you want to be when you grow up. Starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea Duvall and Whoopi Goldberg. Directed by James Mangold. Written by James Mangold, Lisa Loomer and Anna Hamilton Phelan. Produced by Douglas Wick and Cathy Konrad. A Columbia release. Drama. Rated R for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality and suicide. Running time: 127 min
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