"Girl, Interrupted"
A film review by Linda Lopez McAlister
On "The Women's Show" WMNF-FM 88.5, Tampa

I'm rather late getting around to seeing Girl, Interrupted. But I'm glad It is still playing around town, because it's a good film for and about women that you might miss if you go by the mixed reviews the film has received. Again, I think there may be a gender gap here. This time, even though the two main characters in the film are played by attractive young women (Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie) they're not going to please the young male audience looking for sexy babes. They are both patients in a private psychiatric hospital and not exactly alluring.

This film is based Suzanne Kaysen's autobiographical book about having spent 18 months in such a hospital in the 1960s. Suzanne, as played by Ryder, is an affluent young woman who is depressed and suicidal after graduating from high school and being the only one of her class not going on to college. She wants, she says, to be a writer, but really seems to have no focus in her life and she is dogged by strange feelings and erratic behavior. When she's admitted to the hospital she is diagnosed as a borderline personality and she does seem to fit the definition of that disorder fairly well.

One nice thing about the film is that the other residents on the women's ward are well differentiated and treated as individuals you come to know and care about. The most riveting is Lisa (Angelina Jolie) a long-time resident with a penchant for escaping and being brought back. Once there she does seem to be the central focus of the whole ward. She is verbal, critical, seductive, and adventuresome. She leads a group of patients who have found a way to get into the tunnels beneath the building where they go at night between the nurses' hourly room check. Because she is so charismatic Suzanne falls under her spell and comes close to being in love with her.

Jolie won a Golden Globe for her performance in this film and there is talk of an Academy Award nomination for best actress. I must say, she's coming into her own as an actress and she has that ineffable something that makes the camera, and the audience, focus on her every move-even here where she's playing a psychopath who toys with other people in the most dangerous and damaging way and takes no blame for the consequences of her acts. There's an impressive supporting cast as well. Vanessa Redgrave as the chief psychiatrist, Whoppi Goldberg as one of the nurses, Mary Kay Place as the wife of a man Suzanne slept with before she was committed. (It's nice to see her playing a real person here rather than the cloyingly sweet persona that she's been doing ever since "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.")

Director James Mangold is an experienced filmmaker who stages and paces the film well and uses various effects to good effect.

All in all, I liked Girl, Interrupted. It had the ring of emotional truth about it. And why wouldn't it with talented actors, well directed, working from the life of the person who lived this story. Suzanne, it seems, became a writer after all.

For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on women and film.

Linda Lopez McAlister is a teacher and scholar (women's studies and philosophy) at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL

Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister. All rights reserved. If you wish to reprint one of these reviews, please email your request to: mcalister@chuma1.cas.usf.edu