This is a realistic and powerful drama, one that is filled with darkness, tragedy and realism. I have heard some compare this to a Lifetime movie, and I have to say that I do not agree with this assessment as often tv movies are filled with action, suspense, and exaggeration in order to keep the viewers interest in between commercials...
If you are looking for a drama filled with tension and anticipation, then this is not the film for you, for the realism of the story often makes it feel slow moving as you experience what it must be like to go through something like this...The most amazing thing about Girl,Interrupted is that you know that this is REAL, and that it really did happen, particularly during a time period when little was known about mental illness.
Girl, Interrupted explores the boundaries within "mental illness" and is constantly questioning the meaning of this term. There is a struggle within the movie, and the movie's underlying message seems to be tied to the way in which mental illness is defined.
From the very beginning as the central character Susanna Kaysen (played by Winona Ryder) is admitted into the mental institution we are filled with uncertainty, as to whether or not she really belongs there. And as viewers, you question whether or not she really belonged in a place like this.
After Susanna overdoses on alcohol and pills, she is suggested by her doctor that she try a treatment at one of the higher class mental facilities where she could be helped. She is adamant that the overdose was accidental however the doctor strongly believes that this was a suicidal attempt. She admits herself voluntarily after being coerced by her doctor, as she is 18 yrs old and cannot be involuntarily admitted.
I believe that Susanna does not realize the extent of her decision or the way the law works in a situation such as this. She seems to think that she can leave whenever she wants, therefore agreeing to give the treatment a chance. In agreeing to this, she enters into a nightmarish hellish environment which she is unable to leave for quite some time and this becomes her reality.
Later into the film, we discover that Susanna is diagnosed with Borderline Personality, however we find that the doctors are unable to give a satisfactory explanation on why this is...Their lack of knowledge in regard to mental illness becomes quite evident and you are left with a feeling of discomfort and confusion.
It is important to note that this story takes place during the 60's when little was known about mental illness. The film preserves the time period as seen in the scenery as well in the music, illuminating the dramatic and painful story of a girl's life. The song Downtown by Petula Clark is used as a central theme in the film and really accentuates the feeling of loneliness and sadness felt within the character's lives. And, even after leaving the film, the song sticks into your head, playing over and over again...
The central character Susanna is not the only important character in the movie as her character is used as a means of exploring the other characters which she comes into contact with. This suggests that their stories are equally important in contributing to the crux of the film.
The other minor characters do a pretty good job of portraying various mental disorders as well. Clea Duvall (from 'The Faculty') plays Georgina, the roommate of Susanna. She is obsessed with children's books, such as The Wizard of Oz, and struggles with the fear of growing up. She seems unable to live in the real world, therefore latching onto the world of make believe.
Angelina Jolie (from 'Foxfire' and 'Gia') plays the psychopathic character of Lisa quite well, so well that you cannot help but wonder how much she really has in common with her character. She is the leader and bad girl of the institution. She is both feared and revered by the girls who look up to her and are easily influenced by her. She is one crazy girl thriving on the idea of chaos and anything that will keep her at the center of attention. She is by far one of the most complex characters within this story, a girl filled with such hate, anger, and pain...
One of the other character's who really stands out is Daisy, played by Brittany Murphy. She seems to have some sort of eating disorder, among other bizarre behaviors. She does not allow anyone to enter her room, where she hides the food she has eaten under her bed. She is addicted to laxatives. She is a rich daddy's girl who dresses up to look her best and is fixated on being the perfect woman. Her character is unforgettable, and you cannot forget her. She haunts you.
It is the intensity of some of the more dramatic scenes that cause you to shed a few tears. And after you walk out, the film weighs heavily in your heart and soul. And you FEEL for this girl who has had to endure so much, and you are thankful that you've never had to endure such an experience as this. And, a week, a month later, it is still there haunting you in your head...
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