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Winona Ryder
Angelina Jolie
Clea DuVall
Brittany Murphy
Elizabeth Moss
Whoopi Goldberg
Jared Leto
Jeffrey Tambor
Vanessa Redgrave

James Mangold



The Novel

Time: 127 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama

Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Jolie).

I am always leary of watching films that are adapted from novels that I've read. Mainly because movies rarely capture the characters, emotions and voice that make particular books a joy to read. Some adapt to the screen better than others, but ones that take place mainly in the lead characters' head, like GIRL INTERRUPTED, prove almost impossible to render. This is not a particularly bad film overall, it's just not a great adaptation. What made Susanna's story interesting, amusing and heart-breaking was her "voice", her thoughts, sharing the space in her head. Winona does a great job with her body language and attitude, making her internal pain play across her face, but unfortunately, the film lacks the humor that made the book enjoyable.

The fact that we never really learn why Susanna tries to kill herself and then commits herself to Claymoore is frustrating. However, it is also the main point of her story. She doesn't know why she needed to "take a short rest" from society, but allowing herself to be "crazy" helped her to discover who she really was and how to make it in the "real" world. The fact that she had no clue what she wanted to do with her life, didn't sit well with her parents or counselors. All she wanted to be was a writer, but wasn't sure how to accomplish that goal. If you didn't have a plan, you didn't fit in and conforming to the standards of this volatile world was considered normal. What she finds out after spending time on the inside is that sometimes the crazy people are more in tune with their thoughts and emotions than the people wandering around outside. That the line between sane and crazy is not only constantly moving, but not as hard to cross as most people want to believe.

Her first encounter with the women who would become her friends over the year she spent at Claymoore is volatile and uncomfortable. Susanna initially thinks she's made a big mistake. These ladies have much bigger problems than she does. She's just a little sad and unmotivated. She's not a sociopath like Lisa (Jolie). Though the more time she spends with Lisa, the more bewitched she becomes with her ideas and attitudes about life. Lisa is constantly trying to escape and doesn't believe she has any problems. However, every time she escapes she winds up right back where she started. Lisa is a lifer and if Susanna refuses to take responsibility for herself, she'll wind up just like her.

"How am I supposed to recover when I don't even understand my disease?"

She is initially resistant to the therapy of Dr. Wick (Redgrave). Maybe she's just untreatable. Wick points out that Susanna is too intelligent to fool herself for long. She knows better. Susanna tries to prove her wrong by escaping with Lisa. But when that ends in disaster, Susanna comes to realize, though she cares for Lisa, she does not want to waste her life on the inside. With Lisa gone, Susanna starts therapy in earnest, writing her thoughts down, opening up to Dr. Wick. The ward is quiet without Lisa and Susanna is able to finally find her own voice without the bewitching draw of Lisa's personality. It seems that disaster is going to strike a second time when Lisa is brought back the day before Susanna is to be released. However, this time, it is Susanna who is triumphant.

As I stated earlier Ryder is wonderful in this part. She obviously had a connection to this character and did the best she could trying to convey her intelligence and confusion. Jolie was somewhat over-the-top in my opinion, but frankly, she was playing a sociopath, so I can't be that critical. The rest of the ladies on the ward did a fairly good job, but they weren't really given much to do. They were stereotypes for the most part, which is somewhat disappointing, but it IS Susanna's story, so again... Ryder and Jolie worked well with each other and their dynamic, if you enjoy watching them act is very engaging. Goldberg and Redgrave give restrained performances that really do fill in the gaps. GIRL, INTERRUPTED is a well-acted piece that has a lot to say about the definition of crazy in our society. Unfortunately, it didn't engage my heart as much as my head. I was glad she figured herself out, but I'm not sure the time spent watching her do it was worth it.

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