Ty Burr
June 09, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Girl, Interrupted

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
127 minutes
performer
Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg, Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, Vanessa Redgrave
director
James Mangold
distributor
Columbia Tri-Star
author
James Mangold

We gave it a B

To watch Girl, Interrupted is to witness a series of unintended thespian hijackings. There’s star (and executive producer) Winona Ryder at the starting gate, wanly shell-shocked as Susanna Kaysen, an upper-middle-class teenager consigned to a mental institution during the late 1960s. Ryder turns in her subtlest work in some time — you can see the character’s fear of reality float across the inside of those headlamp eyes — but it’s no match for Angelina Jolie’s charismatic brand of wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. When Jolie’s sociopathic bombshell arrives at Claymoore, you simply aren’t able to watch anyone else — which may explain Ryder’s tight-lipped smile when her costar won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last March — at least until Vanessa Redgrave turns up, discreetly riveting as a psychiatrist.

Though it’s based on Kaysen’s 1993 memoir, James Mangold’s adaptation gets mired in snake-pit cliches, and Jolie’s performance ultimately crashes and burns in a climactic hissy fit that plays like the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West. At that point, Ryder regains control and sees the movie through with tensile hesitancy. The character survives; that the actress does too makes Girl even more quietly affecting. B

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