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Girl, Interrupted

Starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie
with Vanessa Redgrave and Whoopi Goldberg
Screenplay by James Mangold and Lisa Loomer and Anna Hamilton Phelan
Based on the book by Susanna Kaysen
Directed by James Mangold

IN SHORT: Depressed Girl in mental hospital makes friends and gets better. [Rated [R], 125 minutes]

As always, no comparison is made to the Source Material.

All the femme critics that saw writer/director James Mangold's Girl, Interrupted with me at an advance screening knew from the word go that this flick is told in flashback. Not Cranky. I was lost from the word go, though I managed to catch up as the flick wore on. Why was I lost? Scene one: a quartet of young ladies in hospital gown/gear, tear-stained and looking like hell and sweeping broken glass off a bare floor. Scene two: a shrink asking questions about one of the girl's suicide attempt. But it's not glass, it's one bottle of aspirin followed by one bottle of vodka. Scene three: same girl signs in to a mental hospital with a big picture of President Kennedy prominently featured on the wall, but her dialog is language not heard until the late 60s ("I didn't burn my bra. I didn't drop acid. I didn't march on Washington"). Cranky wondered, where the hell were we?

Well, we're around 1967/68, a time when traditional 50s families crashed and burned. Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder), just out of high school is listless and has no college plans. She may have had sexual dalliances with one teacher and a fellow student but, basically, feels nothing but pain. So she eats the aspirin, her parents lug her to a shrink (Kurtwood Smith) who rubber stamps her as having "Borderline Personality Disorder" and dispatches her to the Claymoore Mental Institution, where all the rich girls go.

In 90s terms, it would be called a rehab clinic, but there'd be bars on the windows just the same. The nurses, led by Whoopi Goldberg, and staff are kindly. The doctors, led by Vanessa Redgrave, attempt care. The medications are doled out on a regular schedule. Other patients Polly (Elisabeth Moss), Daisy (Brittany Murphy) and Georgina (Clea Duvall) are upper class girls with whose problems would now be treated with heavy duty shrinkery or Prozac, not confinement. There's no need to delve into the psychological problems of the other girls. Enough is on screen that you can come to some pretty fair assumptions all by yourself. In short, Girl, Interrupted is anything but a feminized version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, though the girls will bond, there is an escape attempt and some problems will be resolved one way or another.

Then Lisa (Angelina Jolie) shows up. Lisa is a manipulative sociopath who, basically, can't keep her mouth shut. She's escaped from, and been brought back to the hospital, most of the time in police handcuffs, for eight years. Lisa will gladly get in your face to point out your flaws, as she just doesn't have the kind of "social filters" that would tell us to keep our mouths shut. The social relationship between Susanna and Lisa; one needs to let loose the emotions trapped inside, the other needs to learn to shut up, dominates the film. . .

. . . and Jolie's performance wipes the floor with everyone else's, Ryder's included. The work between Ryder and Jolie leads to some real nice cat and mouse type stuff and is most interesting to watch, but as written up top, I was so thrown by the start of the film that my appreciation of the acting comes strictly as an outside observer. Nothing drew me, or my "feminine side" (as preached by that guy on PBS) into the flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Girl, Interrupted, he would have paid...


Now, guys, you've been clued in to the opening so hunker down, this is for the ladies.

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