Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. Germany/USA, 1999. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Red Wagon Entertainment, Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Company Medien KG. Screenplay by James Mangold, Lisa Loomer, Anna Hamilton Phelan, based on the book by Susanna Kaysen. Cinematography by Jack N. Green. Produced by Cathy Konrad, Douglas Wick. Music by Mychael Danna. Production Design by Richard Hoover. Costume Design by Arianne Phillips. Film Editing by Kevin Tent. Academy Awards 1999. Golden Globe Awards 1999.
Some audience members might resist this all-girl version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but it is often a delicate and touching portrayal of adolescent unhappiness. Winona Ryder gives her finest performance to date as real-life Susanna Kaysen, whose experiences in a private mental institution during the late sixties were the subject of her highly successful autobiography. Director James Mangold has done a fine job in fashioning a fluid narrative from a her character study, and his work is effective most when he emphasizes telling the story from within the main character’s point of view. Ryder’s realizations are quite moving; her first major step in facing her problem while standing in the middle of the parking lot with draft dodger boyfriend Toby (Jared Leto) is probably the most heartbreaking scene in the whole film. The supporting cast is not to be overlooked, including Angelina Jolie as a sociopath who has been in the institution for eight years and doesn’t show signs of being released any time soon. Others in the ensemble include Clea DuVall as pathological liar Georgina, Elisabeth Moss as burn victim Polly, and, most disturbingly, Brittany Murphy as Daisy, a girl with many miserable secrets. To top it all off, there’s a beautiful and sensitive performance by Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie, the wise nurse who recognizes Susanna’s extraordinary intelligence and uses it to help steer her in the right direction, and Vanessa Redgrave as her shrewd analyst.