Girl, Interrupted (film)

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Girl, Interrupted
Girl, Interrupted (1999).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Mangold
Screenplay by
Based onGirl, Interrupted
by Susanna Kaysen
Produced by
CinematographyJack N. Green
Edited byKevin Tent
Music byMychael Danna
Distributed byColumbia Pictures[1] (through Sony Pictures Releasing[2])
Release date
  • December 21, 1999 (1999-12-21)
Running time
127 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$48.3 million[2]

Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 American psychological drama film directed by James Mangold and starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Moss, Angela Bettis, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jared Leto. Based on Susanna Kaysen's memoir of the same name, the film follows a young woman who, after a suicide attempt, spends 18 months at a psychiatric hospital between 1967 and 1968.

Girl, Interrupted began as a limited release on December 21, 1999 with a wide expansion on January 14, 2000. The film received mixed reviews from critics, though Jolie's performance received critical acclaim, winning her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.


In 1967 New England, aimless 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen has a nervous breakdown and overdoses on aspirin, after which against her wishes she is checked into Claymoore, a local psychiatric hospital. Susanna had previously had an affair with Professor Gilcrest, an English instructor, as well as a casual relationship with a young man, Toby. In the psychiatric ward, Susanna befriends Polly Clark, a childlike schizophrenic; Georgina Tuskin, a pathological liar and Daisy Randone, who self-harms and has obsessive–compulsive disorder, as well as being implied to be bulimic;[3] and Janet, a sardonic woman with anorexia. Susanna is particularly drawn to the sociopath Lisa Rowe, who is rebellious but charismatic and encourages Susanna to stop taking her medication and resist therapy.

Lisa helps the girls sneak around at night in the hospital's underground tunnels and continuously provokes them and the staff, including the stern head nurse, Valerie. Through regular therapy sessions with Dr. Melvin Potts, Susanna comes to learn she has borderline personality disorder, a fact Dr. Potts initially conceals from her. On a rare supervised group outing celebrating Daisy's impending release, the women visit an ice cream parlor in town. There, Susanna is confronted by Barbara Gilcrest, the wife of Professor Gilcrest, and their daughter, Bonnie. Barbara publicly chastises Susanna for sleeping with her husband; coming to Susanna's defense, Lisa insultingly berates Barbara and the other girls mock her and Bonnie before they both leave, humiliated. This endears Susanna to Lisa even more, though Valerie reprimands Lisa.

One day, Toby, who has been drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, visits Susanna, begging her to run away with him to Canada. Susanna tells him she has become friends with the other girls and would like to leave someday but not with him. That night, Polly has a breakdown and is placed in isolation. Susanna and Lisa drug the night watch nurse with a sedative and attempt to comfort Polly by singing to her. Susanna also makes out with John, one of the hospital orderlies who has a crush on her. When Valerie finds the group sleeping in the hallway in the morning, she punishes the two women, particularly Lisa, who is forced to endure electroshock therapy followed by solitary confinement.

Later that night, Lisa manages to break out of confinement and convinces Susanna to escape with her. The women hitchhike to Daisy's newly-rented apartment, supplied by her doting father, and bribe her with valium to spend the night. Daisy, insistent she has been cured of her illness, is confronted by Lisa when Lisa discovers Daisy has been cutting herself. Lisa taunts Daisy, accusing her of enjoying the incestuous sexual abuse she has long suffered from her father. The next morning, Susanna finds Daisy dead in her bathroom, having slashed her wrists and hanged herself. Susanna is appalled when Lisa searches Daisy's room and body for cash. Realizing she does not want to become like Lisa, Susanna phones for an ambulance and returns to Claymoore while Lisa flees to Florida.

Back at the hospital, Susanna occupies herself with painting and writing, and co-operates with her therapy, including regular sessions with the hospital's head psychologist, Dr. Sonia Wick. Before Susanna is released, Lisa is apprehended and returned to Claymoore. She steals Susanna's diary one night and reads it for the amusement of the patients in the tunnels, turning them against Susanna. After reading an entry in which Susanna feels sympathy for Lisa being a cold, dark person, Lisa attacks Susanna and chases her through the tunnels. Cornered, Susanna confronts Lisa, accusing her of being dead inside, emotionally dependent on Claymoore, and afraid of the world. This confrontation profoundly affects Lisa, who breaks down and contemplates suicide, though the others manage to dissuade her from doing so. Before Susanna is released the next day, she goes to visit Lisa, who is restrained to a bed. The two reconcile, and Lisa insists she is not actually heartless.


  • Winona Ryder as Susanna Kaysen, the protagonist. She was eighteen years old when diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
  • Angelina Jolie as Lisa Rowe, diagnosed as a sociopath. Charismatic, manipulative, rebellious and abusive, she has been in the institution since she was twelve, and has escaped several times over her eight years there, but is always caught and brought back eventually. She is looked up to by the other patients and forms a close bond with Susanna.
  • Clea DuVall as Georgina Tuskin, a pathological liar. She is Susanna's seventeen-year-old roommate and her closest friend next to Lisa in the institution. Susanna confides in her about life and Georgina informs Susanna about the other girls there.
  • Brittany Murphy as Daisy Randone, a sexually abused eighteen-year-old girl with OCD who cuts herself and is addicted to laxatives. She keeps the carcasses of the cooked chicken that her father brings her in her room. She died by suicide the morning after being verbally attacked by Lisa.
  • Elisabeth Moss as Polly "Torch" Clark, a burn victim who suffers from schizophrenia. She is sixteen years old and is very childlike and easily upset. Georgina informs Susanna that Polly was admitted to Claymoore after her parents told her that she would have to give up her puppy because of her allergies to it, and in response she poured gasoline on the affected area and set it alight, leaving her face horribly scarred. It is later revealed in Polly's file that she was the victim of a house fire.
  • Angela Bettis as Janet Webber, an anorexic. Like Lisa, she is abrasive and seemingly aloof, but is also easily irritated or upset. She is twenty years old.
  • Jillian Armenante as Cynthia Crowley. She claims that she is a sociopath like Lisa, but Lisa denies the claim and states that she is a "dyke". She is twenty-two and is easily amused.
  • Travis Fine as John, an orderly who is smitten with Susanna. He is later sent to work at the men's ward after he and Susanna kiss and fall asleep together.
  • Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Crumble, a colleague of Susanna's father and retired therapist, who sees Susanna as a patient as a favor to her father, and sends her to Claymoore.
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Dr. Melvin Potts
  • Joanna Kerns as Annette Kaysen, Susanna's mother.
  • Ray Baker as Carl Kaysen, Susanna's father.
  • Jared Leto as Tobias "Toby" Jacobs, Susanna's ex-boyfriend who plans to escape to Canada after being drafted into the military.
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Dr. Sonia Wick, the head psychologist of the hospital.
  • Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie Owens, R.N., the stern but caring head nurse who oversees the hospital.
  • Bruce Altman as Professor Gilcrest, a college professor with whom Susanna had an affair.
  • Mary Kay Place as Barbara Gilcrest, Professor Gilcrest's wife.
  • KaDee Strickland as Bonnie Gilcrest, Professor Gilcrest's daughter.
  • Robin Reck as Theresa McCullian.
  • Misha Collins as Tony



In June 1993, Columbia Pictures fought off a number of other studios to buy the film rights to Kaysen's memoir.[4] Winona Ryder, who had also attempted to buy the film rights, ultimately partnered with producer Douglas Wick to develop the project as a star vehicle. The film was then stuck in development hell for five years, with three different scripts written but none satisfying Ryder and Wick, their reasoning being that Kaysen's book struggled to translate to film. Ryder approached James Mangold to direct, after seeing his film debut Heavy.[5] Ryder, Wick and Mangold settled on a final shooting script in mid-1998, with Columbia pushing back production on the film until early 1999 in order for Ryder to shoot their horror movie Lost Souls.[6]


Because of the volume of strong female characters in the film, a number of young actresses sought parts in it. Reese Witherspoon, Christina Ricci, Katie Holmes, Gretchen Mol, Kate Hudson, Alicia Witt, Sarah Polley, and Rose McGowan all auditioned for unspecified roles. “It’s the only decent thing out there that doesn’t involve taking your clothes off,” McGowan said in 1998.[7] Mangold also met with Courtney Love to discuss the role of Lisa as well as Alanis Morissette for a role.[8] Parker Posey turned down a role,[9] while Leelee Sobieski signed on to play Daisy but dropped out weeks before filming began after receiving an offer to star in Joan of Arc.[10][11]


Filming primarily took place at Harrisburg State Hospital in Pennsylvania

Filming took place primarily in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as in Harrisburg State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in early 1999.[12] Mechanicsburg was chosen for its old-fashioned appearance and its old-style drugstore simply titled "Drugs", all of which gave the film its time-dated appearance. A scene in the trailer shows a van traveling towards downtown Harrisburg over the State Street Bridge, where the Capitol building is clearly visible.[13] Scenes later deleted were also filmed at Reading's Public Museum.


Critical response[edit]

Angelina Jolie's performance garnered critical acclaim and won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Girl, Interrupted received mixed reviews from critics, with Jolie's performance receiving critical acclaim.[14]

Writing for The New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote: "Girl, Interrupted is a small, intense period piece with a hardheaded tough-love attitude toward lazy, self-indulgent little girls flirting with madness: You can drive yourself crazy, or you can get over it. The choice is yours."[15] Tom Coates from the BBC wrote: "Girl, Interrupted is a decent adaptation of [Kaysen's] memoir of this period, neatened up and polished for an audience more familiar with gloss than grit."[16] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times was critical of the screenplay adaptation from the source novel, writing that it has "a hard time resisting manufacturing obvious, standard-issue drama of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest knockoff variety," though he conceded that the performances of Ryder and Jolie help the film "stay as honest as it manages to sporadically be...Both women have connected strongly to their parts, and they ensure their characters’ reality even if the dramas they are involved with don't always rise to that standard."[17]

Paul Tatara of CNN panned the film's screenplay for containing little "self-reflection in the dialogue," adding that "Each girl is simply issued a quirk that she drags around like a ball and chain." Tatara summarized: "The good news is that writer-director James Mangold's Girl, Interrupted is one of the best films of the year. The bad news is that you have to be a hyper-sensitive 17-year-old girl to think so."[18] Roger Ebert was critical of the film's failure to focus on the themes it presents, writing: "The film is mostly about character and behavior and although there are individual scenes of powerful acting, there doesn't seem to be a destination. That's why the conclusion is so unsatisfying: The story, having failed to provide itself with character conflicts that can be resolved with drama, turns to melodrama instead."[19]

Charlotte O'Sullivan of the Time Out Film Guide praised Jolie's performance, but was critical of Ryder's: "Does it matter that every time Jolie's offscreen the film wilts a little? Ryder should be perfect as the bright spark; her lines are sharp as a knife. There's a gap, however, between what we hear and what we see. Ryder's too wide-eyed and cutesy, and when we see her with nurse Valerie (Goldberg), we know it's only a matter of time before they start hugging."[20] The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Stack was unimpressed by the film, deeming it "a muddled production that misses the jarring tone of the autobiographical book by Susanna Kaysen on which it is based. The film is entertaining, but not very powerful."[21] Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News gave the film a mixed review, awarding it two out of four stars, writing that "[Ryder] is often just a crumpled, listless figure on a bed, which, while true to the nature of depression, is not, cinematically speaking, the most arresting image," and likening the performances of Whoopi Goldberg and Vanessa Redgrave as "bordering on cameos."[22]

As of 2020, the film holds a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 114 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Angelina Jolie gives an intense performance, but overall Girl, Interrupted suffers from thin, predictable plotting that fails to capture the power of its source material."[14] The film also has a rating of 51 on Metacritic based 32 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23]

Author opinion[edit]

The author, Susanna Kaysen, was among the detractors of the film, accusing Mangold of adding "melodramatic drivel" to the story by inventing plot points that were not in the book (such as Lisa and Susanna running away together).[24]


Institution Year Category Recipient Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards
Best Supporting Actress Angelina Jolie Won [25]
Critics' Choice Awards
Best Supporting Actress Won [26]
Golden Globe Awards
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Won [27]
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Won [28]
Teen Choice Awards
Choice Drama Movie Actress of the Year Nominated
Choice Movie Hissy Fit of the Year Nominated [29]
Choice Drama Movie of the Year Girl, Interrupted Nominated


The film's official soundtrack was released on January 18, 2000.[30]

1."Downtown"Petula Clark3:05
2."It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"Them3:50
3."Got a Feelin'"The Mamas and the Papas2:44
4."Time Has Come Today"The Chambers Brothers2:37
5."Comin' Back to Me"Jefferson Airplane5:14
6."Angel of the Morning"Merrilee Rush3:19
7."Right Time"Aretha Franklin4:45
8."How to Fight Loneliness"Wilco3:52
9."Weight"The Band4:23
10."The End of the World"Skeeter Davis2:33


  1. ^ a b c "Girl, Interrupted (1999)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Girl, Interrupted (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  3. ^ "7 Wonders: Girl, Interrupted". Wonderland. August 6, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  4. ^ Frook, John Evan (June 28, 1993). "Wick, Col nab rights to 'Girl' bio". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  5. ^ Conant, Jennet (November 14, 1999). "Winona Ryder: Mining Her Memories to Play a Troubled Soul". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  6. ^ Petrikin, Chris (July 10, 1998). "Ryder toplines 'Souls' for Ryan's Prufrock". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  7. ^ Laine, Tricia (October 23, 1998). "Behind the scenes of 'Girl, Interrupted'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  8. ^ Taylor, Trey (December 24, 2019). "An oral history of Girl, Interrupted". The Face. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  9. ^ Lee, Benjamin (July 31, 2018). "Parker Posey: 'I didn't think I would work again – so I wrote a book'". The Guardian. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  10. ^ "CBS skeds 'Arc'; 'Friends' in salary huddles". Variety. November 9, 1998. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  11. ^ "Players". Variety. November 16, 1998. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  12. ^ Kiner, Deb. "The filming of 'Girl, Interrupted' in central Pa. in 1999". PennLive. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020.
  13. ^ "Information on the filming of Girl, Interrupted at Harrisburg State Hospital". Retrieved 2011-01-27.
  14. ^ a b "Girl, Interrupted Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  15. ^ Holden, Stephen (December 21, 1999). "'Girl, Interrupted': Stop Your Whining, Little Girl". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 20, 2020.
  16. ^ Coates, Tom (June 28, 2001). "Girl, Interrupted". BBC. Archived from the original on July 17, 2019.
  17. ^ Turan, Kenneth (December 21, 1999). "Following 'Cuckoo's' Flight Path". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020.
  18. ^ Tatara, Paul (December 28, 1999). "Review: 'Girl, Interrupted' -- Committed drama". CNN. Archived from the original on December 19, 2003.
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 14, 2000). "Girl, Interrupted movie review". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015.
  20. ^ O'Sullivan, Charlotte. "Girl, Interrupted". Time Out. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012.
  21. ^ Stack, Peter (January 14, 2000). "Sappy 'Girl' Lacks Character Development". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 31, 2020.
  22. ^ Bernard, Jami (December 21, 1999). "'Girl'–it's one long interruption". New York Daily News. p. 52 – via
  23. ^ "Girl, Interrupted". Metacritic. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  24. ^ Danker, Jared (February 4, 2003). "Susanna Kaysen, without interruptions". The Justice. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020.
  25. ^ "The 72nd Academy Awards (2000): Winners and Nominees". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on December 25, 2018.
  26. ^ "The BFCA Critics' Choice Awards: 1999". Broadcast Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012.
  27. ^ "Girl, Interrupted – Golden Globes". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on September 10, 2017.
  28. ^ "The 6th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Archived from the original on February 9, 2015.
  29. ^ Rondinone 2019, p. 253.
  30. ^ Phares, Heather. "Girl, Interrupted OriginaL Soundtrack". AllMusic. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020.


  • Rondinone, Tony (2019). Nightmare Factories: The Asylum in the American Imagination. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-1-421-43267-0.

External links[edit]