GIRL, INTERRUPTED. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

GIRL, INTERRUPTED. (1999) BASED ON THE 1993 MEMOIR BY SUSANNA KAYSEN. DIRECTED BY JAMES MANGOLD.

STARRING WINONA RYDER, ANGELINA JOLIE, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, VANESSA REDGRAVE, JARED LETO, CLEA DUVALL, BRITTANY MURPHY AND JILLIAN ARMENANTE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Do not drop anchor here.’

‘Susanna, you’re hurting everyone around you!’

‘No-one cares if you die, Lisa. You’re already dead!’

‘Because I don’t want to kill myself, that’s not cool to you…?’

‘I’m curious as to why I should have to be in a mental institution, Melvin.’

‘Here’s a piece of advice, lady. Don’t wag your finger at fucking crazy people!’

I don’t really know what blokes would think of this girlie movie, but it’s been on my list of favourite films ever since I actually saw it on the big screen early on in the year 2000. It was my first time ever clapping eyes on Angelina Jolie and I was completely mesmerised by her stunning ‘LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!’ performance.

I’ve never cared much for Winona Ryder, thinking her too moo-cow-eyed, drippy, wishy-washy and mopey-faced, and in this film she’s surely at her mopiest ever playing Susanna Kaysen, the writer of the memoir on which the film is based, but Angelina Jolie, mon Dieu! She steals every scene she’s in as the beautiful, charismatic, dangerous, damaged and unpredictable sociopath Lisa Rowe. Susanna is drawn to her like a moth to a flame, and truly, so was I, lol.   

I should explain. It’s the late ‘Sixties in America. Susanna Kaysen has ‘the distinction of being the only girl in her year at school not going on to college.’ That’s because, although she knows she wants to write, she has no idea of what she wants to ‘do,’ because of course writing is not a proper job or course of action for a young woman on the cusp of life, according to the adults in her life. Grrr.

After having a disastrous affair with a college professor, constantly self-harming and attempting suicide, Susanna is packed off, more or less against her will, to a mental institution called Claymoore for a so-called ‘rest’ of two weeks, which turns into a stay of one whole year.

She has a diagnosis of ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ slapped on her, something of a nothing diagnosis if you ask me. Far be it from me to say that this mental disorder or that one doesn’t really exist, but it just seems like a mish-mash of all the feelings young women tend to normally have in late adolescence anyway, feelings like insecurity, fear of abandonment, fear of never finding the perfect relationship or partner, stuff like that.

Susanna quickly becomes as badly-behaved and self-indulgent as the other brats in her ward. Whoopi Goldberg as the sensible Nurse Valerie- ‘two kids and one bathroom’- doesn’t tolerate her nonsense for a second.

She tells Susanna that she has so much going for her that it would be criminal for her to just get comfortable with the ‘crazy’ label and lie down under it. It takes a while for Susanna to work out that Nurse Valerie is spot on when she advises Susanna: ‘Do not drop anchor here.’

Brittany Murphy, who died tragically young a mere decade after making this film, is superb as the poor Daisy Randone, a sexually abused young woman with an eating disorder and a fast pass to self-destruction. Angelina Jolie’s Lisa is horrible to her and selfishly, almost for fun, gives her that extra push she needs to step off the edge of the world completely. It’s a really sad storyline.

Jared Leto plays the handsome Toby, who’s terrified of being sent to Vietnam (well, I don’t really blame him for that, do you?) so he asks Susanna to run away with him just as company for himself, the little gurrier.

Vanessa Redgrave is suitably superior and ivory-tower-ish as the Great and Powerful Dr. Wick, head shrink at Claymoore. I’m not sure how in touch with the real world and the patients she is, though, up there in her lovely office with her dictionaries and her fancy Latin words.  

Again, though, Angelina Jolie, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lisa, just steals every scene she’s in and is so infinitely watchable as the too-cool-for-school ‘lifer’ who, under her tough, prickly smart-mouth exterior is just crying out to be loved.

And not just the love of a man for a damaged, broken but still sexually desirable little girl, either. She’s had plenty of that, it would seem, but she’s probably never known the genuine affection of one human being for another, and that’s really sad too.

A pretty cool ‘Sixties soundtrack accompanies the scenes of Susanna and her pals at Claymoore running amok in their nice safe sanitarium for- mostly- the daughters of rich folks who can afford to pay to have their problems kept neatly out of sight for a while.

This is mine and my daughter’s favourite girlie film, along with White Oleander, Sleeping with the Enemy, Tina Turner: What’s Love got to do with it?, Erin Brokovich and Gorillas in the Mist.

As I said earlier, I’m not sure what guys will think of the film but, as a woman who was probably just as angsty and as prone to navel-gazing and endless introspection as Susanna Kaysen when I was seventeen (in all fairness, isn’t that what your late teens are supposed to be for, anyway?), I bloody love it. That’s about it, really.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. (1992) BASED ON THE BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA.

STARRING GARY OLDMAN, ANTHONY HOPKINS, WINONA RYDER, KEANU REEVES, CARY ELWES, RICHARD E. GRANT, TOM WAITS AND SADIE FROST.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve had quite the love-hate relationship with this film. The first time I saw it, I hated it, much to the disgust of the friend and massive Gary Oldman fan with whom I was watching it. (‘But he’s Sirius Black!” she kept saying. ‘Sirius Blaaack…!’) Sirius Black from HARRY POTTER or not, it made no odds to me. I just didn’t get his whole deal.

The thing about me is that I like a nice sexy Dracula. Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, even Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu in Werner Herzog’s beautiful, dreamy film; these are all my boys.

I’ll also accept a terrifyingly scary head vampire in lieu of a sexy one. For example, Max Schreck as Nosferatu in Murnau’s ground-breaking 1922 masterpiece, or the wonderful Reggie Nalder as Kurt Barlow in the 1979 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT.

I guess I just don’t like Gary Oldman as Dracula, and I didn’t dig him either as Old Dracula, with his ridiculous ‘two loaves of bread’ hairstyle; as Young Dracula with those dreadful dark blue eye-glasses he sports; or even as ‘Bye-dear-I’m-off-to-war-Dracula, in which persona his suit of armour and long unkempt hair/facial hair makes him look like a cross between an armadillo and the Cowardly Lion from THE WIZARD OF OZ.  

The second time I saw the film, about a year later, I totally got it and had a whale of a time. I still don’t like Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula, a fictional character very close to my heart, but I guess sometimes you have to give something a little distance before you realise that you love it…

So, what is the actual deal here? Well, this is a rather superior re-telling of Bram Stoker’s supernatural- and super!- literary classic, DRACULA. Gary Oldman, as if you didn’t know, lol, plays the aristocratic vampire Count from Transylvania who has waited centuries to be reunited with the love of his life, Elisabeta, who took her own life due to the cruel lies of others.

The poor tormented Dracula, who really is a most sympathetic character, finds his Elisabeta again in nineteenth-century England. In a nineteenth-century Englishwoman and prim, proper little schoolmarm, to be precise.

While in his alternate guise of a young(ish) nobleman, he quickly gets under the skin of Winona Ryder’s Mina, the reincarnation of Elisabeta, and wins her unswerving allegiance. Not too surprising, considering Mina’s romantic alternative is lowly estate agent’s clerk Jonathan Harker, woodenly played by the hilariously uncharismatic Keanu Reeves.

Winona Ryder, an actress I don’t normally like, is actually quite acceptable as Wilhelmina Murray, who wants to be faithful to her beloved Jonathan, but just can’t help falling for the lonely charms of Dracula, even while the dopey Jonathan is still trapped in Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, being sexed up nightly by Dracula’s three hot, sex-starved wives. And complaining his scrawny arse off about it too, if you can believe that!

Dracula, of course, is simultaneously leeching the life out of Mina’s bezzie mate, the slutty Lucy Westenra, played by Sadie Frost. The scenes of seduction between Lucy and Dracula in the guise of a hideous wild animal manage to be both sexy and mind-blowingly wild. Red-haired Lucy also has a loyal little band of male followers surrounding her who gladly provide her with their blood when Dracula takes hers.

Cary Elwes plays Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood. Richard E. Grant, another actor for whom I’ve never much cared, plays suitor Dr. Jack Seward, whose insane asylum needs to be brought seriously up to code, as it still uses the power-hose as a means of subduing hysterical inmates. Billy Campbell plays the third suitor, the rich American Quincey P. Morris.

Ultimately though, even the clever ministrations of Anthony Hopkins’s wonderfully dramatic and over-the-top Professor Van Helsing (actually, lads, is he drunk?) fail to save Lucy. She succumbs to Dracula’s blood-sucking ways, as we know from reading the book (so don’t be saying I’m dealing out spoilers here, it’s a one-hundred-and-twenty-three-year-old book!), then comes back as a vampire and is put to death appropriately in some brilliant scenes in a gloomy crypt by Van Helsing and Arthur Holmwood.

Good old Gary Oldman as Dracula then swaps haemoglobin with the not unwilling Mina in some surprisingly sexy and even tender scenes. Meanwhile, Van Helsing and Arthur Holmwood and the rest of Mina’s suitors, Jack Seward and Quincy P. Morris, are running around like headless chickens trying to destroy and/or render useless the boxes of earth from his native Transylvania without which Dracula is unable to travel. They eventually burst in on the loved-up couple, but are they in time or is it much, much too late to save Mina from a fate worse than death…?

The scenery, costumes and special effects are excellent. Lavish and visually stunning, as we might expect from director Francis Ford Coppola. I have no beef with these. This is not a low-budget affair.

The Vampire Chicks are absolute knock-outs, but even they can’t coax a life-like performance out of Keanu Reeves. Is it because they’re un-Dead, or is he just a bit crap…? I’ll leave you guys to make up your own minds.

I guess the reason I sometimes feel less than tender myself towards this film is that its cast is not the cast I would have personally chosen. But don’t worry, folks, the film’s done quite spectacularly well over the years even without my personal seal of approval, lol, and I’m sure it’ll continue to do so. Over and out.  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.