Susanna Kaysen wrote the book, “Girl, Interrupted” about the year she spent in a mental institution after high school graduation in the late 1960’s. “A crazy girl for a crazy time,” you might say (or pitch). Director James Mangold has now turned this story into a prime candidate for 9pm, Monday night on the WB.
In the movie, Susanna (Winona Ryder) is never actually sure what’s wrong with herself. After she chases a bottle of aspirin with vodka, a psychiatrist friend of her father’s talks her into checking herself into the Claymoore Psychiatric Hospital. Expecting a short stay, she soon realizes she can’t just check herself out again (a sort of crazy chick roach motel), and soon becomes chummy with the other “residents”, some of whom have been there for a while, ALL of whom belong there.
Herein lies the problem: This film is not a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”-style expose of a mental hospital. All of the staff at least mean well. Hell, we even get Whoopi Goldberg doing her umpteeth maternal caregiver (she displays more life on a subpar episode of “Hollywood Squares”). The film is really about a teenage girl pulling her head out of her a*s. As we all know, that can take a while. The flick does perk up whenever exploring the serious problems exhibited by the other girls, but Mangold’s generic naturalism blunts the impact. A David Lynch could have shown what mental illness looks like from the inside, but we never leave the viewpoint of Susanna and her overly earnest narration. Sounding like the scribblings from a teenager’s diary, the 28-year-old Ryder lapses into self-parody. Co-star Angelina Jolie is four years younger, but she usually plays older roles than Ryder. With former co-star Christina Ricci sucking up the prime ingenue roles, maybe it’s time for Winona to sit at the big table.