Volume 93, Issue 61

Wednesday, January 19, 2000


Girl deserves undivided attention

Supernove shows no signs of brilliance

Festival proves arts still alive

Zuul's serve up new concoction

Girl deserves undivided attention

Photo by Suzanne Tenner
"NO, I'M TELLING YOU - THE HABS STILL HAVE A SHOT AT THE CUP." Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie show how they got locked up in the first place in their new movie Girl, Interrupted.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

In the late 1960s, a woman on the verge of entering her adult life was interrupted from doing so. Her name was Susanna Kaysen and the new film Girl, Interrupted, by director James Mangold, is based on her diaries.

Set in the northeastern United States, the film is centred around the year Susanna (Winona Ryder) spends in the Claymoore Mental Institute. It focuses primarily on Susanna and her friendship with fellow patient, Lisa (Angelina Jolie).

Through a series of flashbacks, the audience learns that Susanna's womanhood has been systematically degraded by those around her, which has grossly damaged her self-esteem and sense of self-worth. These symptoms, combined with a half-hearted suicide attempt, are the driving forces behind Susanna's sentence to Claymoore.

During her stay, she encounters a number of different women with serious mental problems such as eating disorders, pathological lying and self-mutilation. Many of the women become friends as they slowly find solace in each other's company. They are all forced to take medication and some receive electric shock treatments as punishment for bad behaviour. Susanna herself is eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Although many other patients' lives are ending tragically around her, Susanna is challenged by nurse Valerie Owens (Whoopi Goldberg) to rise above her circumstances and rebuild her life. In one particularly gripping scene, Susanna begins to understand the contrast between Lisa and herself. She soon realizes that Lisa will never be able to leave Claymoore, however if Susanna accepts the help she is offered, she still has a chance to get out. It is at this point that Susanna begins her journey.

From the election placard on a front lawn, proclaiming "Kennedy 1968" to the memorable soundtrack, vintage costumes and fitting dialogue, the film is a beautifully shot picture which somehow manages to capture every single nuance of the time period.

Although the film has a solid, thoughtful script, it is the brilliant acting which brings it to life. Winona Ryder is outstanding. She is delicate and poignant, which contrasts dramatically with the volatile and potent Jolie. Strong performances are also turned in by Goldberg and Elizabeth Moss, who plays a disfigured girl with touching sincerity.

Girl, Interrupted also does an admirable job at conveying the social context of the time period. Because they are women who do not fit into the societal mold, they are degraded and sent away to a hospital, where dependence on prescription drugs quickly becomes as common as watching television.

All in all, Mangold has taken great care to present an honest and unpatronizing look the kind of courage it takes to build self-esteem, in a place where it doesn't exist and in a time when women were not accorded such luxuries. A triumph on a multitude of different levels.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000