Taglines: Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy.
The story surrounds 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) who has a nervous breakdown and takes an overdose of pills with a bottle of vodka. While she denies she tried to kill herself claiming that the many pills were for a “headache”, she does suffer from depression and lack of motivation. For her suicidal actions, she is checked into a psychiatric hospital, Claymoore, and encounters a number of the patients on her journey to recovery.
Among those on the ward, she befriends Polly (Elisabeth Moss), who is a childlike schizophrenic who set herself on fire; Georgina (Clea DuVall), a pathological liar; and Daisy (Brittany Murphy), a sex abuse victim who cuts herself, is obsessive-compulsive and has an eating disorder. But above all, Susanna is fascinated by the ward’s long-time resident, Lisa (Angelina Jolie), who is a rebellious, hateful, manipulative, but charismatic girl considered to be a sociopath. The two form a bond and Lisa encourages Susanna to stop taking her meds and resist therapy.
Susanna’s interactions with her new-found friends vary from sweet to confrontational, showing her to be quite human, but also a little lost on her journey through life at that point. She shows remarkable kindness toward those who are less certain about their future, but enjoys her rebellious streak and the camaraderie she finds with Lisa.
The girls’ actions range from pranks, indulging in fantasies, and mild manipulations to verbally violent attacks on one another. Lisa knows the operation and layout of the facility, the people, and how to manipulate them and circumstances to suit her desires. She is undaunted by the punishments she receives. At one point, after she disappears for one such punishment, she convinces Susanna to break out of the hospital, and they run to the home of the newly released Daisy, who is now living in a house provided by her adoring father.
Lisa has no patience for Daisy, as a rule, but isn’t above using her, knowing the girl will have money and she’ll give it to them. But Lisa’s hatefulness surfaces in short order and she verbally attacks Daisy, exposing that Daisy has had an incestuous relationship with her father for years, and leaves Daisy desperate and in tears. Susanna tries to smooth things over, but Daisy withdraws.
The following morning, Susanna hears “End Of The World” playing continuously from Daisy’s room and is told from Lisa that Daisy has not come out of her room since the verbal abuse from last night. Going upstairs, Susanna discovers Daisy has committed suicide in her bathroom by hanging from a noose with her wrists slit, and is appalled at Lisa’s callous attitude when she searches for and finds whatever cash she can (including searching Daisy’s dead body), and then leaves the house to go on the run.
Susanna has finally reached her nexus and realizes she doesn’t want to become like Lisa. She phones for an ambulance and then returns to Claymoore. She pursues treatment with her new-found positive outlook, stops feeling sorry for herself, works at her painting and writing, and cooperates with her therapy – pointing herself toward freedom and a promising life.
Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 American psychological drama film, and a loosely based adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir of the same name. The film chronicles Kaysen’s 18-month stay at a mental institution. Directed by James Mangold, the film stars Winona Ryder (who also served as an executive producer on the film) as Kaysen, with a supporting cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Moss and Vanessa Redgrave.
Girl, Interrupted was released on December 21, 1999. Although the film received mixed reviews from film critics, Jolie received praise for her performance and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.
In a 2000 Charlie Rose interview, Ryder revealed her strong passion to produce the film, indicating that it took seven years to get to the screen. After reading the book, Ryder immediately tried to secure the rights; however, a week earlier they had been purchased by Douglas Wick. Ryder then decided to team up with Wick along with her manager Carol Bodie, who acted as executive producer along with Ryder. Ryder also stated that she tried hard to persuade James Mangold to direct the film, who was reluctant at first. She states that Mangold was the right man for the role as director after she saw his directorial debut Heavy, which explored similar themes to Girl, Interrupted.
Filming took place along Main Street in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as in Harrisburg State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg was chosen for its old-fashioned appearance and its old-style drugstore simply titled “Drugs”, all of which gave the film its time-dated appearance. A shot seen in the trailer shows the van traveling towards downtown Harrisburg over the State Street Bridge, where the Capitol building is clearly visible. Deleted scenes were also filmed at Reading’s Public Museum.
Girl, Interrupter (1999)
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Jared Leto, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bettis
Screenplay by: James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan
Production Design by: Richard Hoover
Cinematography by: Jack N. Green
Film Editing by: Kevin Tent
Costume Design by: Arianne Phillips
Set Decoration by: Maggie Martin
Art Direction by: Jeff Knipp
Music by: Mychael Danna
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality and suicide.
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: December 21, 1999