F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 9, 2009)

9 10 2009

“Girl, Interrupted” has the illustrious honor of being featured as this week’s F.I.L.M. (First-Rate, Independent Little-Known Movie).  The movie has gained some notoriety for establishing the star of Angelina Jolie, winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.  The movie made a small sum at the box office, but it has now been relatively forgotten.  I have seen it sitting in a bargain bin at Blockbuster a fair few times.  But I decided to watch it on HBO during the summer, and the movie definitely does not deserve to be buried in a cardboard box with several installments of “Saw.”  It is a well-thought, provocative study of a woman and the society that may have been the push off the cliff of sanity.  Virtually every element of director James Mangold’s movie is fully realized, unfortunately uncommon among movies nowadays.

The film begins with Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) narrating: “Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60’s. Or maybe I was just a girl… interrupted.”

Her epigraph sets the tone for the whole movie as she is coaxed into entering an asylum with borderline personality disorder.  There, she meets compulsive liar Georgina, anorexic and self-destructive Daisy (Brittany Murphy), the loner and occasional transvestite Cynthia, burn victim Polly A.K.A. “Torch,” and the queen bee, possibly sociopathic Lisa (Jolie).  Susanna’s friendships define her stay at the hospital, especially the alluring Lisa.  As they swap pills, defy authority, gossip, abuse, and betray, Susanna is definitely affected.  But the more time she spends in the hospital, does the pendulum swing towards sanity or insanity?

As far as similar movies go, “Girl, Interrupted” is not a classic in the vein of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”  But there is definitely some great stuff at work in this film.  Mangold manages to find humanity and happiness in a place as dark and dreary as an asylum.  The movie, while tough to digest at times, provides some very tender and touching moments as well.  I found my heart completely captured by a scene outside of the solitary confinement room where Lisa and Susanna sing Petula Clark’s “Downtown” to one of their friends to raise her spirits.  But the movie is more than just moments; the whole work gets the brain racing.  Don’t be surprised if the definition of insanity becomes a little hazier for you or if you start to wonder if the “millennial” decade has taken a toll on you.