Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Girl, Interrupted

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

Girl, Interrupted

5/10

USA 1999, dir. James Mangold, stars Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie

Girl, Interrupted is a kind of low-calorie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for teenage girls. It’s a ‘target-audience’ film which isn’t really designed for the majority of cinemagoers – I found it a painless but uninvolving couple of hours, just not my kind of thing. If the subject matter interests you, give it a look. If not, there are plenty of better pictures on offer at the moment.

Based on Susanna Kaysen’s memoir of her late 60s spell in a mental institution, the film is a pet project for Winona Ryder and it shows. She must be in every scene, and there’s very heavy use of her voice-over. She certainly has a more assertive presence than director Mangold, whose visuals are muted to the point of drabness – he takes a back seat as Ryder/Kaysen’s tale unfolds.

Not that it’s much of a tale. As with many memoirs, the episodic structure proves awkward on the screen. Ryder has difficulty settling in, gets to know the other girls, has various run-ins with authority (Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave), encounters colourful sociopath Angelina Jolie, frets over her draft-dodging boyfriend Jared Leto, gets to know Jolie, runs away, goes back, etc. etc. etc. It’s all a bit by-the-numbers, and there isn’t much here that we haven’t seen in a dozen similar films before. Ryder carries the film well enough, and the eye-rolling Jolie makes the most of her juicy role, but their efforts can’t manage to lift the enterprise out of its rut of unspectacular ordinariness.

by Neil Young