The expectations of 1960s America were too much for Susanna Kaysen, who was bullied into an 18-month stay at a mental institution after a botched suicide attempt. "Girl, Interrupted" is a decent adaptation of her memoir of this period, neatened up and polished for an audience more familiar with gloss than grit.
When Susanna (Ryder) arrives at Claymoore hospital she swiftly befriends the other patients on her ward. Sexually-abused Daisy is addicted to laxatives and self-harm, Polly is a burn victim who wants to be a child forever, and Georgina is a pathological liar. Their informal ringleader is the charismatic sociopath and frequent escapee, Lisa (Angelina Jolie).
Comparisons with that other Oscar-winning, book-to-movie mental-institution classic, Milos Foreman's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" are inevitable. While "Girl, Interrupted" is certainly the more accurate of the two, it lacks the dramatic punch of Foreman's film. The direction is slick and the leads are beautiful and act well, but "Girl" is finally the sentimental and reactionary story of a spoilt child coming of age. As such, questions about the appropriateness of the treatments are raised but never fully addressed, and Susanna's fascinating and tragic companions are left frustratingly under-examined.
The only exception to this is Lisa, a substantial role played with a passion and insight that deservedly won Jolie an Oscar. Lisa is as tragic and intoxicating a character as "Cuckoo" 's McMurphy, but here she is eventually betrayed by the script's attempts to tie up loose ends and end itself cleanly. You're left wishing the film had a little more faith in its audience, for then this well-put-together movie might have provoked more thought, and slightly less irritation.