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
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.
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