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Girl, Interrupted (1999) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • Based on writer Susanna Kaysen's account of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s.

  • Unable to cope with reality and the difficulty that comes with it, 18 year old Susanna, is admitted to a mental institution in order to overcome her disorder. However, she has trouble understanding her disorder and therefore finds it difficult to tame, especially when she meets the suggestive and unpredictable Lisa.

    Toni
  • Susanna Kaysen, an 18 year old girl who had a headache and chased a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of vodka. In the 1960's, this landed her in the mental institution, Claymoore. Here she is diagnosed, by Dr Melvin, with a Borderline Personality Disorder. When she arrives at Claymoore, she is greeted by Nurse Valerie and shown round the woman's ward. Here she meets Georgina Tuskin; a pathological liar who is fixated with The Wizard of Oz, Polly Clark; a fire survivor, Janet Webber; an anorexic patient, Daisy Randone; a girl who won't let anyone in her room and only eats her fathers chicken and Lisa Rowe; a psychopath who controls the other patients and makes lives hard for the nurses at Claymoore. Throughout the movie, Lisa gains and loses control over Susanna and we see how bad she really can be. The end of the movie shows Susanna being released from Claymoore after an 18 month stay. How does Susanna take back her control? This movie battles subjects such as mental heath, abuse, self-harm and suicide.

  • Susanna is rushed to the hospital. Afterwards she discusses this with a psychiatrist. She had been having some delusions. She had also been having an affair with the husband of her parents' friend. The doctor suggests that combining a bottle of aspirin and a bottle of vodka was a suicide attempt. This she denies. He recommends a short period of rest at Claymoore. Claymoore is a private mental hospital full of noisy, crazy people. Georgina is a pathological liar. Polly has been badly scarred by fire. Daisy won't eat in the presence of other people. Lisa is a sociopath, the biggest exasperation for the staff - like Nurse Valerie - and the biggest influence on the other girls in the hospital. Lisa has a history of escapes, so gaining access to personal medical files is not a problem... Susanna's boyfriend Toby is concerned that she seems too comfortable living with her institutionalized friends...

  • Susanna is depressed and directionless after finishing high school in the late 1960's. A suicide attempt lands her in Claymore, a mental institution. She befriends the band of troubled women in her ward (Georgina the pathological liar, the sexually abused Daisy, the burn victim Polly) but falls under the hypnotic sway of Lisa, the wildest and most hardened of the bunch. Will Susanna "drop anchor" at Claymore and perpetually act out like Lisa, or will she finally pull her mind together and leave institutional life behind?


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • "Maybe I really was crazy. Maybe it was the 60's. Or maybe I was just a girl... interrupted."

    Susanna is a young woman of eighteen, and her life isn't exactly what a "normal' eighteen-year-old's is suppose to be like. To her, any kind of sex is casual, and it doesn't matter who she does it with or when, as long as she gets it.

    At graduation she falls asleep, proving she has little interest for the norms of prize-givings or anything to do with what's accepted by society. At her father's birthday party she is under dressed and is of course moaned at by her hypocritical mother. Here we learn that her parent's friends are just as false as what is accepted by everyone. And then it becomes clear that Susanna has been sleeping with her mother's friend's husband.

    This drives her to try to commit suicide with aspirin and a bottle of vodka to get it all down. At the E.R. she claims that she doesn't have bones in her wrists anymore, and tells the psychiatrist at home that the bones grew back by the time she got to the hospital.

    So she is shipped off to a local mental institution and put in the ward for women only. Here she meets a multitude of people who really do have problems: an anorexic, a girl who burned herself as a child, a lesbian (at the time was thought of as a mental disorder), a bulimic, and her roommate, a compulsive liar, to top it all off.

    The ward is run by Nurse Valerie Owens, who is very clever, but is unable to become a doctor due to her race. All the nursing staff and the patients are kept marginally sane by Valerie, and she and Susanna have a complex relationship. Susanna is questionably diagnosed with having a Borderline Personality Disorder.

    Things really get started when the sociopath run away patient, Lisa, returns to the ward and turns Susanna's world upside down and inside out. She is a force to be reckoned with---she is magnetic, rebellious, doesn't take her meds and is unhealthy for the other patients as she breaks down their self-esteem regularly. Due to the fact that her last best friend, Jamie, couldn't hack it when she ran away, Lisa befriends Susanna and together they start a world of trouble.

    Susanna keeps a diary of all her thoughts and feelings, illustrating in it too, and telling the tale of her stay through her daily entries.

    Her ex fling, Toby, comes to visit her and she very nearly tries to have sex with him in her room. He tells her he wants them to run away to Canada together so that he doesn't have to go to Vietnam. He tells her she isn't crazy and that the girls in the asylum aren't really her friends. But she refuses to go with him, subconsciously beginning to rely on Lisa.

    Then she meets the head psychiatrist, Dr. Sonia Wick, and claims she is ambivalent, saying it means she doesn't care. But Dr. Wick sees through this mask and decides to have Susanna see her from now on. Afterwards Lisa is taken in to see the doc, but doesn't return and Susanna falls into a depression. Nurse Valerie has had enough and throws her into an ice cold bath to wake her. She tells Susanna, after Susanna attacks her verbally and says that she doesn't know what she doing, that she is a spoiled, lazy little girl who is driving herself crazy! And that if Susanna isn't careful she'll throw her life away on some stupid rebellion.

    That night Lisa breaks into the ward, wild eyed and crazy, and Susanna runs away with her so they can get to Disney Land. There they hook up with hippies and eventually crash at the bulimic, Daisy's, house after bribing her with promises of meds. But all turns bad when Lisa tells Daisy that she is a freak herself and that this apartment is all a mask to hide what's really happening. She breaks Daisy down, finally saying that Daisy probably likes her father molesting her and that it's probably all she's ever known.

    The next morning Susanna wakes up and goes for a walk, to escape the sound of Lisa's voice and returns to find Daisy playing a record over and over again and Lisa in the kitchen. She goes up the stairs and finds Daisy's wrists slit and she hangs herself in the bathroom. Susanna goes back to the asylum without Lisa, (who runs away again) and starts anew with Dr. Wick and her diary.

    When she is due to leave, Lisa breaks out of her padded cell and steals Susanna's diary. Beneath the ward in the maze of corridors, Lisa reads the diary aloud and tells the other girls what Susanna thinks of them. Susanna runs away from Lisa when she begins to chase her with a needle filled with a toxic-looking chemical. Susanna breaks her hand while trying to close a sliding metal door on Lisa and then they finally confront each other. Susanna tells Lisa finally that no one cares if she dies because she already is dead and her heart is cold, and that she will start her life again out of this hospital without Lisa and the others.

    In the morning she is about to leave, but first visits Lisa and talks to her again. Lisa says that she isn't really cold and that she didn't mean to hurt Susanna. When she leaves she says goodbye to all her friends, and gets into the cab saying that being crazy isn't about keeping a secret, it's just about everyone being personified. And by the seventies most of her friends were out of the clinic and leading lives. The girl who was just interrupted by herself and everyone else, is finally recovered from being a supposed "borderline".

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