Girl, Interrupted is a patchy retelling of Susanna Kaysen's spell in a mental institution, at the instigation of her parents, in the late 1960s. Too often, James (Copland) Mangold's conventional direction smothers a fascinating story with Hollywood gloss.Kaysen (Winona Ryder) even has a villain to overcome - sociopath Lisa (Angelina Jolie). Mangold cut several of Lisa's more sensitive scenes, leaving her with little motivation of her own beyond hindering Kaysen's reformation. Jolie's wild performance is the film's splash of colour, against the grey interiors and Jack Green's wintry cinematography. Lisa's the life of the ward when she's stable, and simply dangerous or comatose when she's not (Jolie effectively portrays the latter states through her eyes alone). Unfortunately, Mangold doesn't rein her in towards the end and she goes way over the top.
Winona Ryder is finally looking too old to play a girl just out of high school. Her contemporary look, usually incongruous in period films, effectively adds to her detached writer persona. The ironic narrative works well here, because Kaysen became a writer in the institution. The notebooks she wrote at the time form the basis of the screenplay, and were her means of finding a voice and getting out.I don't know whether the Wizard of Oz allegory at the end (complete with Toto) was Kaysen's, or an invention of the screenwriters. It's unwelcome from overuse and ends Girl, Interrupted on a slack note.