Girl, Interrupted – Review (Spoiler Free)

Girl, Interrupted Poster - WikipediaGirl, Interrupted is an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s memoir about her time spent in a mental institution, and it strays too close to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to avoid comparison – something that doesn’t benefit the film. It does enough differently to avoid being a rip-off of the classic film, but similarities such as having a protagonist who may not actually be crazy, who enters into an institution and befriends the other patients, and who then questions the system and its methods, is enough to inevitably bring comparison, and on no counts does this film live up to its spiritual predecessor.

Having said that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film, Winona Ryder gives a decent performance as our lead, although she has every scene stolen from her when Angelina Jolie walks on screen. This is the film which won Jolie her Oscar and therefore unsurprisingly she does a great job at excluding a dangerous, damaged, and sensual performance. Unfortunately, the good work done by these two actresses, as well as several members of the supporting cast, deserves a harder hitting and better developed script with which to work from. There is real potential here, but ultimately the film doesn’t pack the punch that it and its subject matter should have, and comes across as far too smooth and simplistic.

There are several strands which feel underdeveloped, several characters that could have been explored beyond a surface level, and several important questions which are touched upon but then abandoned. Whoopi Goldberg’s character for example has racist remarks made towards her and yet nothing is made of them. Similarly the film briefly critiques women’s position within the 60’s, before then that is also dropped and never picked up again. It’s not a bad film, it works on several levels and certainly delivers good performances, but it contains the seeds of a much better film that unfortunately never makes it onto the screen.

Overall Girl, Interrupted lacks the power needed to raise it above being anything more than entertaining, and that’s not just when compared to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but also more generally. I was more than happy to go along with it and watched with interest, but overall it fails to draw out any strong emotions the way that it should have done, and winds up being slightly underwhelming.

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14 comments

  1. I saw this for the first time a few months ago. Would agree with your assessment that it’s good but not great. Certainly worth a watch if you can find it streaming.

    1. Yeah it would be worth checking out on Netflix or wherever. I was surprised that Winona Ryder’s performance wasn’t liked by a number of critics, I thought she did a good job with her material.

  2. Jolie made this film. The supporting characters (the other inmates really) also did a fine job. Goldberg didn’t get to do much, unfortunately. However, I have to side with the critics as far as Ryder is concerned. I’d always defended her when people attacked her acting skills, but watching her in this movie lessened my ardor. Her performance was so painful to watch, especially that bathtub scene. Yikes!

    1. Ryder divides me from performance to performance, however I didn’t mind her all that much here. She was overshadowed by several other members of the cast, that’s true, but otherwise I didn’t really have much of a problem with her.

      Yeah I expected that Goldberg would have a more substantial role to play, and as good as the supporting cast was, I wished they could have been utilized a little more. Jolie being the exception of course.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Great post, Jolie truly stole every scene with her performance.

    1. Cheers Vinnieh, glad that you too rate Jolie’s performance. She’s so great here isn’t she! Where do you sit on Winona Ryder’s performance? Good or bad?

      1. I didn’t mind Ryder, but I thought Jolie was more effective.

        1. Oh Jolie was significantly better, but it’s good to hear that you didn’t mind Ryder as some people did.

  4. Great review; I definitely agree. The acting was great and these women deserved a better movie (not that it’s bad, but you know) to perform in.

    1. Cheers Fernando 🙂 Yeah if the script had more to it then this could have been an excellent film. Too bad that it only comes off as a good but underdeveloped one.

  5. Good review! I enjoyed the movie more than you did, yeah Jolie was a scene stealer but I really liked Winona Ryder’s quiet and compassionate performance. Brittany Murphy was also fantastic.

    1. Thanks 🙂 I didn’t dislike Ryder’s performance like so many critics did, but it didn’t really stand out that much either. I hear you about her and can see why you say what you do, but it didn’t quite do that for me unfortunately!
      Brittany Murphy was very good I agree, I also particularly liked Elisabeth Moss in her role.
      Thanks for stopping by 😀

  6. l really like this film too. I think Ryder’s alright here; but it’s probably Jolie’s best performance, with the only possible exception being ‘A Mighty Heart’.

    1. I haven’t seen ‘A Mighty Heart’ so thanks for bringing that to my attention. I’ll have to check it out at some point.

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