Stay tuned throughout September for nuttiness and zaniness of all varieties - click here for the full lineup, and click here for prior entries.
Say what you like about Girl, Interrupted – ‘it’s historically inaccurate’, ‘it’s an unfaithful adaptation’, ‘it glamorizes mental illness’ – it boasts career-best performances from most of its primarily female cast.
The film is based on the memoirs of Susanna Kaysen, who spent 18 months in a mental hospital as a teenager in the sixties. Despite the fictitious elements of the adaptation and the way each young actress plays a different ‘type’, I can’t help but feel that they did the issue of mental illness amongst teenage girls justice. As Winona Ryder notes in the DVD’s ‘making of’, this film could have been set in any time period and it would still resonate with viewers.
Ryder, along with Angelina Jolie and Brittany Murphy, gave her best performance to date in this film, yet all too often this is a mere side note in most articles on a film that ‘turns to melodrama’ (Ebert).
Winona Ryder – Susanna Kaysen
Pre-Girl, Interrupted films: Beetle Juice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, Beaches, Reality Bites, Little Women, Alien: Resurrection.
Post-Girl, Interrupted films: Autumn in New York, Mr Deeds, The Darwin Awards, A Scanner Darkly, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Star Trek, Black Swan.
What I love most about Heathers is the concept and story, as opposed to Ryder’s role. As in Edward Scissorhands and Little Women, I had more of a fondness for the film as a whole than her performance. However, there’s no denying that her leading role in James Mangold’s drama marked a turning point in her career. She was offered more adult parts although her private life overshadowed her on-screen career and she quickly fell into obscurity. She arguably made a comeback with the animation A Scanner Darkly and her supporting role in Black Swan could see her edge her way back onto the A-list.
I found her performance in Girl, Interrupted to be subtle, vulnerable and under-stated and her career-best.
“In conveying her character's volatile emotional life Ms. Ryder gives her most penetrating screen performance, one that deserves extra credit for not pleading for our love.” – Stephen Holden, NY Times
Angelina Jolie – Lisa Rowe
Pre-Girl, Interrupted films: Hackers, Foxfire, Gia, The Bone Collector.
Post-Girl, Interrupted films: Gone in Sixty Seconds, Lara Croft: Tom Raider, Life Or Something Like It, Lara Croft Tom Raider: The Cradle of Life, Beyond Borders, Taking Lives, Shark Tale, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Alexander, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Good Shepherd, A Mighty Heart, Beowulf, Kung Fu Panda, Changeling, Wanted, Salt.
Jolie won the SAG, Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Girl, Interrupted and it’s not surprising that the only other Oscar nomination she has received was for Changeling. Jolie excels in strong dramatic roles yet she always seems to end up in Hollywood trash like Tomb Raider, Mr and Mrs Smith and Salt. In Girl, Interrupted she was smart, funny and sexy and portrayed Lisa as both feisty and emotionally detached.
“Girl, Interrupted is always worth watching when Angelina Jolie steps to the fore. Somehow, she takes a thuddingly ill-conceived role and turns it into gold.” – Stephanie Zackarek, Salon
Brittany Murphy – Daisy Randone
Pre-Girl, Interrupted films: Clueless, Bongwater, Drive, Falling Sky, Zack and Reba, Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Post-Girl, Interrupted films: Cherry Falls, Sidewalks of New York, Don’t Say A Word, Riding in Cars With Boys, 8 Mile, Just Married, Uptown Girls, Little Black Book, Sin City, Never Was, Love and Other Disasters, The Dead Girl, The Ramen Girl, Deadline, Across the Hall.
Considering her break-through role was as alternative teen ‘Ty’ in Clueless, Murphy quickly went down the typical Hollywood starlet role. Following Girl, Interrupted she tried her hand at horror with Cherry Falls, thriller opposite Michael Douglas in Don’t Say A Word and went ‘edgy’ with 8 Mile. Then followed a string of under-the-radar rom-coms, the most noteworthy being Just Married which I have a particular soft spot for. With the exception of her supporting role in Sin City, Murphy went pretty much unnoticed on the big screen until her tragic and unexpected death last year. I’ve always favoured supporting characters in films and Daisy was the most interesting in Girl, Interrupted. The others didn’t have much of a back story (Lisa’s was never explained, Georgina’s and Polly’s varied depending on who was telling the story and it was never clear if there was actually anything wrong with Susanna besides a bit of acting out and a refusal to accept the way her life was turning out) and, in the wrong hands, Daisy could have been hard to identify with. Murphy’s performance was heartfelt and heart-breaking.
“No less effective is the sad and spooky Brittany Murphy as Daisy, a blank-eyed abuse victim.” – Liese Spencer, Sight & Sound
The trio’s personal lives may have received more media coverage than their film roles but more than ten years after the release of Girl, Interrupted, maybe it’s about time we remembered what they are (or, in Murphy’s case, were) capable of.
“Two reasons to see the film: Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. Their characters never really get a plot to engage them, and are subjected to a silly ending, but moment to moment, they are intriguing and watchable. Jolie is emerging as one of the great wild spirits of current movies, a loose cannon who somehow has deadly aim. Ryder shows again her skill at projecting mental states; one of her gifts is to let us know exactly what she's thinking, without seeming to. Their work here deserves a movie with more reason for existing.”
Tomorrow: Steve Miller enters