Another view from the `Cuckoo`s Nest`

by Robert J. Hawkins | Jun 7, 2000
Another view from the `Cuckoo`s Nest` Just because "Girl, Interrupted" is set in the 1960s in a mental institution, don`t start comparing it to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest." For one, Angelina Jolie`s mercurial mental patient, Lisa, is no Randall P. McMurphy - although Jolie could easily hold her own against Jack Nicholson in a movie (They could play over-the-top together.) And just because Whoopie Goldberg and Louise Fletcher both portray ward nurses dressed in white, Whoopie was hardly the enemy in this one. Nor were Vanessa Redgrave and Jeffrey Tambor remote and clueless staffers. In fact, this is probably where these two misfits-in-mental-wards movies diverge most.

In "Cuckoo`s Nest" Nicholson railed against oppressive authority and tried to rally his companions to his cause. The hospital staff was a metaphor for the larger society. In "Girl, Interrupted," the real enemy is within and for the film`s true protagonist, Susanna (Winona Ryder), the quest is to find her missing self. When she must do battle, it is over remaining faithful to her hospital pals or finding the courage to take her place in the outside world.

Based on the memoir of Susanna Kaysen, Susanna has checked herself into the Claymoore Hospital, vaguely diagnosed as a "borderline personality disorder." Quaint, isn`t it? Today, if you don`t have a borderline personality disorder, chances are the bouncer won`t even let you into the after-hours club. Susanna`s problems do go deeper - her now-famous explanation for chasing a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka was "I had a headache." But really, she`s just another upper middle-class girl who got lost. And a lot of people were lost in 1969. To wit: Lisa, Susanna and their ward cohorts break into the psychiatrist`s office to read their session notes.

"Uncertainty about goals and generally pessimistic attitude," intones Lisa. "That`s me," chirps up one of the girls. "That`s everybody," Lisa responds. There are these Hollywood moments of glib dialogue in "Girl, Interrupted." Like the fact that the ward seems reserved for young, not unattractive girls in their early 20s. Yet, somehow, the movie doesn`t slide totally over to the dark side. I think Ryder and Jolie and the obvious passion they threw into their roles has a lot to do with this. Just when they`re about to be trapped in a Hollywood-inspired chick-flick trap, they act their way out of it and make this movie real again.

Jolie`s meatier role got her an Oscar and a Golden Globe for supporting actress. Sociopaths always get the statue.

"Girl, Interrupted" is available from Columbia TriStar on VHS (rental) and DVD ($28) and is rated R. The DVD edition includes an audio commentary track by director James Mangold, as well as deleted scenes, an HBO film on the making of the movie and talent files on the primary cast and director.ALSO THIS WEEK:

"Geppetto" (Disney, unrated but safe, $20) - From the mouth of that whale ABC-TV to home video in less than one month! People haven`t even stopped cringing at the thought of Drew Cary`s wooden singing and dancing as the title character and already it is out on video. (Drew Carey? I thought it would be Jim Carrey!)

"Blues Clues: Stop Look and Listen" (Paramount/Nickelodeon, unrated, VHS/$10) - From the popular kids TV show, Steve Burns and his computer-generated canine companion pursue life`s little mysteries in two different episodes, "What Did Blue See?" and "What`s that Sound?"

"The Last Stop" (Sterling, R, VHS/rental, DVD/$20) - A snowstorm forces a state trooper to hole up at The Last Stop Cafe and Motel where he stumbles upon a crime scene. You got your murder, your large bag of cash, your two suspects - and ba-ding - you`ve got a thriller on your hands. Stars Rose McGowan, Adam Beach and Jurgen Prochnow. (This is a revised release date from the one previously announced.)

"Backlash" (Columbia TriStar, R, VHS/rental, DVD/$25) - A federal prosecutor (Tracey Needham) seeks protective custody when a Columbia drug cartel assassin`s bullet meant for her kills her partner. With the help of a homicide cop (Charles Durning), she uncovers a high-level government conspiracy, but only a convict (James Belushi) can help save her from another bullet.

"Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter Jr." (Universal, PG-13, VHS/rental, DVD/$25) - A documentary from Errol Morris, director of "Thin Blue Line" and "A Brief History of Time." Leuchter, the son of a prison warden, was an engineer by training and chose as his life`s work the creation of more efficient and "humane" methods of execution. (If you watched the execution scene in "The Green Mile," perhaps you can appreciate his vocation.) However, more significantly, Leuchter became the author of the controversial "Leuchter Report," which denies the existence of the Holocaust.

Morris discredits Leuchter, his methodology, his report and the whole neo-Nazi movement that has capitalized on his work.

"The Morph Files" (BBC/CBS/Fox, unrated, 3 vols./$10 each) - A blend of claymation and computer animation, this three-volume collection of episodes from the BBC-TV series comes from the same creative forces at Aardman Animations who brought us "Chicken Run" in theaters now. Each volume contains four episodes. Morph, the central character, is actually a zillion characters. He has the ability to, well, morph himself into any shape he wishes.

"Next Friday" (New Line, R) - In this weak sequel to the comic hit "Friday," Ice Cube and crew try to out-raunch "There`s Something About Mary" and generally succeed, as evidenced by a $55 million take at the box office.COMING ATTRACTIONS:

June 13: Robin Williams` tin-woodsman "Bicentennial Man."

July 4: "Scream 3" the final sequel. They promise!

July 11: Denzel Washington`s Oscar-nominated performance in "The Hurricane." TV`s Frankie Muniz in "My Dog Skip." Stunt-king Jackie Chan in "Gorgeous." Go-go-money kids fuel "Boiler Room."

July 18: Bette Midler is Jacqueline Susanne in "Isn`t She Great."

July 25: Direct-to-video sequel "Beethoven`s 3rd." No promise that it is the last. Roman Polanski occult thriller "The Ninth Gate."

Aug. 22: Winnie the Pooh and "The Tigger Movie," too.

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Author: Robert J. Hawkins


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