An open wound of a girl, Susanna Kaysen (Ryder), puts up only minimal resistance when her parents bundle her off to a mental asylum. There she meets a pack of similarly troubled souls, led by rebel Lisa (Jolie). In this glossy adaptation of Kaysen's '60s memoir, it's the beauty of the two leads you first notice. Jolie has a flaming, slithery, childlike presence. During a group outing, Susanna is accosted by the wife of her former lover, unleashing Lisa's protective rage. As the humiliated woman backs away, the girls roar with delight and we feel like roaring with them. It's not just Susanna who's being seduced here, it's us. 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. As Lisa's dark side turns pitch black, she hisses to Susanna: 'You need me to play the villain, 'cos it makes you the good guy' - a clever attempt by Lisa to wriggle free of her own guilt. As a summary of Ryder's schtick, though, it's bang on.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan|