“Girl, Interrupted” is easy enough to like. It has good acting and a frequently compelling storyline. But recognizing it as a good movie is one thing; actually enjoying it is another, and it’s hard to see anyone going back a second time to watch this cold, wearying film about depression and suicide.
The action takes place in the late ’60s, when doe-eyed Susanna (Winona Ryder), daughter of socialite parents, makes a half-hearted suicide attempt and goes to Claymoore Hospital to “rest.” The mental hospital has the cold, clinical feel that all movie mental hospitals have — the kind where the doctors and nurses are competent, but not particularly caring. No one’s been mistreated, but it’s not someplace you’d want to stay, either.
(The fact that the entire film takes place there makes it that much harder to enjoy. Even if I had a friend there, I doubt I’d visit him for 2 hours and 5 minutes at a time.)
Among the patients at the hospital is zombie-complected Lisa (Angelina Jolie). She’s a mean, heartless gal who revels in her mean heartlessness. She also manages to have friends, somehow, and soon Susanna is among them.
The first one-fourth of the film is peppered with Susanna’s flashbacks, woven seamlessly into the present, which give a good feel for what life was like for her on the outside. She was quiet and unambitious, and perhaps a bit promiscuous.
Once the flashbacks go away, we’re kept interested for a while by the gals at Claymoore. That wears off, though, and I recall thinking, “Shouldn’t this movie be OVER now? What else can happen?” at exactly the half-way point.
A long stretch of nothing occurs, in which another patient gets released, and Susanna kicks against the system, etc., etc. Finally, things get interesting in the last act, and Susanna eventually realizes that to be happy, she must control her urge to rebel. Conform! the movie says cheerily. To the extent that you agree with that notion, that’s how enjoyable the film is.
Ryder and Jolie both give excellent performances, earnestly committing themselves (pardon the pun) to roles that are sometimes melodramatic. They are worthy of praise, as is the film as an artistic work. But as entertainment — or even as a thought-provoker — it doesn’t have much going for it.
B- (; )