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Girl Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted is the other movie from 1999 about a weak, downtrodden person enthralled to a cigarette-smoking non-conformist who challenges middle class conventions (the first film being, of course, the simultaneously-released-on-DVD Fight Club). And on DVD many of the screen version's perceived weaknesses evaporate. What seemed like a slow-paced chick buddy film with a bunch of undifferentiated secondary characters is illuminated by the virtues of home viewing. We can tell the characters apart now and suddenly the film is revealed as a moving character study, or rather character clash. As in Fight Club, the point is that Winona Ryder, as the '60s high school graduate condemned to a year in the famous Claymoore mental home after a suicide attempt, is meant to be tempted by the allure and spontaneity of Angelina Jolie's Lisa Rowe, but that Lisa's tricks are suppose to be seen as a dead end, no matter how much we want to find her entertaining, like Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses finding Gogarty initially overwhelming, life-filled, and attractive. Writer-director James Mangold, whose interviews prefacing his Faber and Faber-published screenplays are a form of film school, is one of the smartest directors now working and his audio commentary is wise and informative. There we learn that some of his influences for conquering Susanna Kaysen's real life account were The Wizard of Oz, Slaughterhouse-Five (for the flashback structure) Midnight Cowboy, and Michael Powell's Black Narcissus. In other words, everything but loony bin-snakepit movies such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The film is not perfect by any means; it is still relatively plotless (though there is development), both Ryder and Jolie (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar even though Ryder's performance is much more subtle) are much thinner than the ward's resident anorectic (Brittany Murphy), and the last time I wanted to hear the song "Downtown" was all the way back in The Little Drummer Girl. The DVD, in 1.85:1 plus 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2-Channel Dolby Surround, is a clean transfer that captures Eastwood cinematographer Jack N. Green's beautiful, muted, mostly naturally lit images, and also features limited cast and crew credits, the theatrical trailer (with some other trailers featuring the stars), accurate English subtitles, an HBO First Look documentary, an isolated musical track highlighting Mychael Danna's powerful and moody score and the songs, nine deleted scenes with commentary by Mangold (which easily and beneficially could have been put back in their proper place for a Director's Cut disc, or side), and Mangold's full-length audio commentary. Keep case.
—D.K. Holm

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