Sometimes one performer in a film stands out so far above the rest, it’s difficult to enjoy the movie when he or she is not on screen. The other actors may be doing a fine job, but magic only happens when that certain star appears. As a result, the film seems interrupted until the actor in question comes back on camera. Tony Shalhoub’s turn as the emotional master chef in Big Night and Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of the ambitious high school politician in Election come to mind as examples of this phenomenon.
Angelina Jolie (The Bone Collector) gives this type of bravura performance in Girl, Interrupted, a movie based on Susanna Kaysen’s rite-of-passage memoir. Playing Lisa, a seductive sociopath, Jolie enlivens every scene she’s in --- so much so that whenever she’s not on screen, many viewers go into a state of suspended animation waiting for her to come back. Director James Mangold (Heavy) claims the role of Lisa is "a showy, tour de force kind of role, and a showy, tour de force kind of actress won the part."
According to producer Cathy Konrad, every young actress in Hollywood wanted to read for the part of Lisa. "But Angelina walked in and ---without even saying a word of dialogue --- sat down in the chair as Lisa! We were riveted," Konrad declared. Jolie, a two-time Golden Globe winner (for Gia and Wallace) sums up Lisa’s character as "someone who follows her instincts and impulses to the nth degree. The problem is, she doesn’t have that internal switch to tell her what’s moral or rational."
Lovely Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence) co-stars in Girl, Interrupted and is quite convincing as author Susanna Kaysen, the woman whose memories of two years in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s form the basis for this movie. Other cast members are excellent too. Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act) projects just the right amount of concern as a no-nonsense ward nurse; Vanessa Redgrave (Mrs. Dalloway) is the psychiatrist everyone should have when needed; and the young actresses portraying Susanna’s eccentric fellow inmates show considerable potential.
Nevertheless, Girl, Interrupted belongs to Jolie. She’s already garnered a 1999 Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her work in this film. Don’t be surprised to see her name on the short list when those all-important Oscar nominations are announced in February.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "R" for strong language as well as for content related to drugs, sexuality, and suicide.)