Girl Interrupted is based on a memoir written by Susana Kaysen on a difficult time in her life that led her to a mental institution for 2 years. Winona Ryder plays Susana and Angelina Jolie is her confident sociopath buddy on the inside, Lisa. There are several important parts of mental health that this movie explores that makes it incredibly interesting.
- The blurred lines between what is considered “normal” and what is considered clinically insane.
- The improper management of mental health facilities in the 60’s
As always, the book gets the true meaning of this story across better than the movie. From first sight, Susana seems like a spoiled brat that goes through a crisis in college. She doesn’t care about anything anymore and begins behaving carelessly. She’s acting out to distract herself from the responsibilities of being an adult, landing her in a mental institution. Her suicide attempt with aspirin being the last straw. But in the book, her internal monologue explains in better detail that she is actually physically battling with a grasp on reality.
Susana’s stay at the mental institution introduces her to a hand full of characters that make you question if the system is properly treating them and if some patients actually belong there. Starting with Susana, who is considered one of the ‘sanest’.
It is safe to assume that whenever Angelina Jolie dyes her hair blonde, she is ultimately a villain. (It’s just the way it is) What better actress then Angelina Jolie to play an insane patient intent on pushing everyone’s buttons. She’s so stinking good at it.
Lisa is a sociopath that follows a cycle of breaking out of the institution and getting caught. It seems that she isn’t entirely staying there against her will. She feeds this cycle, and in all reality, she may even see the institution as a home. She’s known to taunt and bluntly point out the issues in other patients, often pushing them to their edge.
Daisy is played by Brittany Murphy. She’s an example of how the mental institutions failed back in the 60’s. Daisy was quiet and had ambitions and goals, such as having her own apartment and having a “normal” life. She had the support of family in the form of a father that was always present. Truly, she had an incestuous relationship with her father that was evident to the patients and somehow seems to slip by the institution’s staff. She only ate chicken that her father brought her and kept the carcasses under her bed. She also asked for extra laxatives to rid herself of her chicken timely. If this isn’t a sign that something’s wrong, I don’t know what is.
Nonetheless, the institution releases her and she moves into her own apartment. Lisa and Susana pay a visit during an escape, and because she couldn’t help herself, Lisa tells Daisy about what she knows. Lisa points out that Daisy isn’t any less sane than the rest of them and that her lifestyle with daddy is taking a mental toll on her. As a result, Daisy hangs herself the next morning.
The system failed Daisy. How could they not see that she was hiding something? She was even cutting herself. Why didn’t they further evaluate her relationship with her father? If the patients noticed, the staff must have seen it too. Agreeing with a psychologist and saying what they want to hear, shouldn’t be the key to getting out of a mental institution.
This changes everything for Susana. Susana realizes that Lisa’s carelessness is nothing like hers. Lisa says what she wants even if it could cause the death of another human being and that’s not who Susana is. I think it was the breaking point that suddenly made Susana suddenly realize where she was, after feeling disconnected from the source.
Susana begins to participate in treatment and begins to work towards getting better. She can’t relate to Lisa’s detachment from emotion after what happens to their friend. She refuses to stop feeling. What it all boils down to is the mind. If you suddenly felt detached from the world, how do find your way home?
These questions will stack up in your head like old laundry after watching this movie. I could get so deep right now, but I know you’re not ready for it. I’ll spare you.
What did you ask yourself after watching Girl Interrupted? Comment below or message me here ->
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