The true story of writer Susanna Kaysen's 18-month
stay in a mental hospital in the late 1960s.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Directed by James Mangold
Written by James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan
Starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall,
Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Whoopi Goldberg,
Jared Leto, Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Redgrave
Based on the memoir by Susanna Kaysen
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actress (Angelina Jolie)
Girl, Interrupted is notable for its insight into mental illness treatment through the eyes of writer Susanna Kaysen, who checked herself into a mental hospital voluntarily after a botched suicide attempt. This film does not sugarcoat mental illness. In fact, I found the film to be pretty honest in its depiction of these struggles. While at times melodramatic, I don't think Kaysen's intentions were lost with the film, though Kaysen herself does apparently think so. James Mangold injected a bleak, nonlinear story with a bit of pep, and the final result has endured as a bit of a cult classic.
Susanna (Ryder) finds herself committed alongside women all dealing with their own problems. Lisa (Jolie, in a show-stealing performance) is a sociopath who doesn't care about anything, Daisy (Murphy) has OCD, Georgina (DuVall) is a pathological liar. Polly (Moss) is a schizophrenic burn victim, and so on. Together, they become friends because they've got nothing else. You become attached to these women too, and the institution does appear to actually help them, as opposed to most mental hospitals in film. It was a nice change of pace and an endearing group of characters who all have their moment of revelation.
I think this movie has helped people understand their own situations. That alone is significant. It questions the societal stigma surrounding mental illness and brings up possibilities that society itself has driven people, particularly women, to be villainized for being sick. This is something we continually struggle with today, and I applaud films that humanize mental illness.