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review added: 6/20/00



Girl, Interrupted
1999 (2000) - Columbia TriStar

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Girl, Interrupted Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/B

Specs and Features

127 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:16:54, at the start of chapter 19), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by director James Mangold, deleted scenes with commentary, isolated film score, HBO First Look: The Making of Girl, Interrupted featurette, 4 theatrical trailers (Girl, Interrupted, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Little Women and Foxfire), filmographies, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English, (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

There are an innumerable amount of phrases that I could tie in with the title of the movie Girl, Interrupted, to convey how disjointed it feels at times. However difficult it may be, I will resist the temptation to do so. After a promising start, and with the help of a few good performances, Girl, Interrupted falls off-track about halfway through the film, and becomes very episodic. But even worse... it becomes average. One of the problems may be that the material now seems all too familiar. We've seen this story done already, and done better in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. This time, the action centers on the women's wing of Claymoore, a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s. Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is hospitalized after swallowing a bottle of aspirin with a liter of vodka. She is reluctant to go to the hospital and is in complete denial, but eventually she checks herself in for what she thinks will be a short stay.

Once there, she meets Lisa (Angelina Jolie), a sociopath and frequent escapee who makes a habit of pushing everyone's sensitive buttons and speaking straight from the gut. After a rocky start, the two become good friends. Susanna needs Lisa's bluntness to convey to her the reality of her situation. As Susanna learns the ropes around the hospital, she also gains the trust of Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg), one of the staff nurses who assures her (in the typical movie-style tough love way) that she will eventually get out of Claymoore and lead a normal, productive life.

The movie instills a sense of hope for all its characters ,as they deal with day to day life outside of the world. But it's diluted with so much cliché-ridden, Hollywood female bonding, that it undermines the effectiveness of their relationships. At one point in the movie, they all have a chance to escape when they acquire a set of hospital keys. Instead, they choose to use them to get into the basement of the building and bond over a game of bowling. Okay, why?

Another issue I have ,is that director/co-writer James Mangold seems to like some characters a lot more than others. The only two characters in the movie that are really developed are Susanna and Lisa, and the rest remain fairly one-dimensional. I found most of the background characters just as interesting as (and sometimes more interesting than) the main characters. The movie is based on Susanna Kaysen's autobiographical book of the same name. The book is not told in a straight linear fashion, and this may be the problem with the translation to the big screen. The movie is essentially a series of episodes, but they're not held together in a cohesive manner.

I'm dismayed that in a year of strong female supporting performances in really great movies, the Academy chose to honor Angelina Jolie for her work in this very flawed film. I would like to have seen Toni Collette, Chloe Sevigny, Catherine Keener or Cameron Diaz get a little more recognition for their work last year. Jolie's showy performance seemed too exaggerated and hysterical to be believable, and many times I felt Winona Ryder was actually a lot better - more complex and far more dynamic. Ryder's transition from a shy, introspective young woman to a self-indulgent brat was smooth and without flaw, and it was far more engaging to watch. Jolie is Hollywood's new favorite edgy/flaky "It" girl, and she's definitely a promising young actress. But it seems now (with roles in the awful Bone Collector, Gone in 60 Seconds and the upcoming Tomb Raider) that she's more interested in earning a paycheck than taking on challenging work. Hopefully, she'll soon return to making movies first and worry about money second.

The video presentation of Girl, Interrupted is first-rate. Many of the scenes are saturated with natural light sources, and these come across very effectively with little noticeable edge enhancement. Contrast is also exceptional, with no interference from color bleeding. A very clean source print was used for the transfer to DVD. There is some minor scratching during the opening credits, but they pretty much disappear after that point. I did notice one or two occasions where the picture took on a softer look, but this didn't last longer than a few seconds and seemed print (and not transfer) related. Black level is also especially good, with only very rare instances of compression artifacting that break up the picture. By and large, this is a nice anamorphic picture.

As usual, Columbia offers their standard choice of two English tracks in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 surround. Both are good, but neither is expansive and enveloping. Good, if infrequent, use is made of the .1 LFE channel, which provides some needed depth to the audio track. The 5.1 mix doesn't make a lot of use of the surround channels. When it does, they're used mainly for the film's score (which is also included separately in its own track). Nonetheless, dialogue level is never compromised by an over-active effects or music track.

There are a small number of good features to accompany the video/audio presentation of Girl, Interrupted on DVD. Along with the previously mentioned isolated music score, there is a commentary track by James Mangold. He talks at length (and almost non-stop) throughout the entire track about directorial and writing choices that were made for production of the movie, but doesn't necessarily stay on track with what's happening on screen. It's an enjoyable listen from start to finish. The HBO First Look featurette is a small behind-the-scenes look at the production of the movie, that has interviews with actors, producers, the director and more. Most of the deleted scenes are just extended versions of scenes already in the movie - footage that was excised to shorten an already too lengthy film. What's left, as far as features go, is standard stuff - theatrical trailers and talent files.

Girl, Interrupted has its moments, but that's exactly the problem. They feel like moments rather than a journey. The characters have taken a long journey on the inside of the hospital, and we should have been there with them. But if you enjoyed the movie in theatres or are just interested in a one-time viewing at home, this DVD is the perfect way to do it. While not a special edition, the disc has a fair amount of good features to add to your viewing enjoyment. And since it's a Columbia release, you're practically assured of a high-quality DVD product.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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