A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is a graphic depiction of a young woman's stay in a mental hospital. It features characters with depression and eating disorders. One of the main characters hangs herself. Characters abuse prescription drugs and use strong language. Hospital scenes include graphic depictions of young women in straitjackets and those recovering from electric shock therapy. Several use highly derogatory terms when referring to their African-American nurse. Incest and the male anatomy are discussed at some length.
What's the story?
GIRL, INTERRUPTED is an unsettling, provocative account of a girl's journey through the depths of depression and her coming-to-terms with both her illness and with growing up. Based on a memoir by author Susanna Kaysen, the film chronicles the protagonist's suicide attempt, her relationship with her emotionally remote parents, as well as her intense relationships with other patients while she is hospitalized. The film's depictions of the characters' various illnesses are downright scary: from a girl who is addicted to laxatives and obsessed with chicken to a girl who can't cope with a disfiguring facial burn. Girl, Interrupted is at its best when exploring the struggles of Susanna's cohorts in the hospital. Moreover, the film's depictions of mental health care in the 1960s are equally disconcerting and discomforting.
Is it any good?
Unfortunately, Girl, Interrupted lapses into morbid melodrama at various points. Viewers will be interested in the strong, often painful friendships that Susanna forged with other girls in the hospital. However, the frequent, garish, shrill confrontations between the girls seem highly unrealistic. This is a profound weakness in a film that is, otherwise, an introspective account of mental illness that feels -- painfully and candidly -- real.
Because the film features popular actresses like Angelina Jolie, Brittany Murphy, and Winona Ryder, kids will probably be familiar with this film and want to see it -- particularly because it's the movie that made Jolie a star. Yet it contains such serious subject matter --including incest, suicide, and drug abuse, to name a few --that parents should consider either watching it with younger teens or limiting it to older teens. It's definitely not appropriate for younger viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of Susanna's illness on the various decisions she makes. How did Susanna's depression influence her behavior with Professor Gilcrest and Toby Jacobs? Families could also discuss Susanna's relationship with Lisa. How did Lisa both help and hurt Susanna's recovery? Parents might talk with their kids about characters' abuse of prescription drugs throughout the film. How was Susanna different when she took her medications as directed by the doctors? Susanna states that she is being unfairly labeled "promiscuous" because she is a sexually active girl. Why might people judge boys differently than girls when it comes to sex? Is Susanna right?
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