The story surrounds 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) who has a nervous breakdown and takes an overdose of pills with a bottle of vodka. While she denies she tried to kill herself claiming that the many pills were for a "headache", she does suffer from depression and lack of motivation. For her suicidal actions, she is checked into a psychiatric hospital, Claymoore, and encounters a number of the patients on her journey to recovery.
Among those on the ward, she befriends Polly (Elisabeth Moss), who is a childlike schizophrenic who set herself on fire; Georgina (Clea DuVall), a pathological liar; and Daisy (Brittany Murphy), a sex abuse victim who cuts herself, is obsessive-compulsive and has an eating disorder. But above all, Susanna is fascinated by the ward's long-time resident, Lisa (Angelina Jolie), who is a rebellious, hateful, manipulative, but charismatic girl considered to be a sociopath. The two form a bond and Lisa encourages Susanna to stop taking her meds and resist therapy.
Susanna's interactions with her new-found friends vary from sweet to confrontational, showing her to be quite human, but also a little lost on her journey through life at that point. She shows remarkable kindness toward those who are less certain about their future, but enjoys her rebellious streak and the camaraderie she finds with Lisa. The girls' actions range from pranks, indulging in fantasies, and mild manipulations to verbally violent attacks on one another. Lisa knows the operation and layout of the facility, the people, and how to manipulate them and circumstances to suit her desires. She is undaunted by the punishments she receives. At one point, after she disappears for one such punishment, she convinces Susanna to break out of the hospital, and they run to the home of the newly released Daisy, who is now living in a house provided by her adoring father.
Lisa has no patience for Daisy, as a rule, but isn't above using her, knowing the girl will have money and she'll give it to them. But Lisa's hatefulness surfaces in short order and she verbally attacks Daisy, exposing that Daisy has had an incestuous relationship with her father for years, and leaves Daisy desperate and in tears. Susanna tries to smooth things over, but Daisy withdraws. The following morning, Susanna hears "End Of The World" playing continuously from Daisy's room and is told from Lisa that Daisy has not come out of her room since the verbal abuse from last night. Going upstairs, Susanna discovers Daisy has committed suicide in her bathroom by hanging from a noose with her wrists slit, and is appalled at Lisa's callous attitude when she searches for and finds whatever cash she can (including searching Daisy's dead body), and then leaves the house to go on the run.
Susanna has finally reached her nexus and realizes she doesn’t want to become like Lisa. She phones for an ambulance and then returns to Claymoore. She pursues treatment with her new-found positive outlook, stops feeling sorry for herself, works at her painting and writing, and cooperates with her therapy – pointing herself toward freedom and a promising life.
Just before her release, however, Lisa is returned to the facility. When she finds out about Susanna’s impending release, Lisa strikes out at her. In an effort to secure her superior position at Claymoore and spew hatred on Susanna, Lisa has stolen a diary of Susanna's and reads it for the amusement of some of the patients so they can ridicule her together. Susanna tries to explain herself but to almost no avail as Lisa has succeeded in turning the other patients against her through the use of her diary entries about them. After reading what Susanna has written about feeling sorry for Lisa for being the cold, dark person she is, Lisa starts to attack Susanna, attempting to ruin her progress by pushing her past the brink of sanity and health through the use of her psychological abuse, hoping to trigger her into another nervous breakdown. Susanna tries to escape Lisa who follows after taunting her, during which Susanna tries to block Lisa's path to her by slamming the sliding door shut, accidentally injuring her hand in the process. While Susanna stumbles in pain, Lisa catches up to her and tries to break her mental state by pushing her buttons all while taunting and asking why doesn't anyone try to push her buttons and Lisa questions why she isn't dead yet. At this, Susanna explodes, and angrily tells Lisa she is "dead already" and that nobody would ever try to push her buttons because she is a cold person. Lisa breaks down and she reveals that perhaps she has been living a lie, that she probably isn't a sociopath at all, but she is very troubled. Broken by the harsh truth Susanna presented about her, Lisa then tries to commit suicide by attempting to shove a hypodermic needle into her arm. However, she is prevented from doing so and talked out of her suicidal actions by Susanna and the other patients, and Lisa just lies on the ground crying next to Susanna and the other girls. The two are then reconciled before the hospital staff locate and rescue Susanna, Lisa and the other girls from their location. Before Susanna is released the next day, she goes to see Lisa one last time and there are indications that Lisa is going to change after all for the better.
In a poignant summary done in voice over, Susanna says that despite the intense conflicts that arose at the institution, it still holds strong memories for her and she will not readily forget any of those she encountered there.Winona Ryder as Susanna Kaysen, the protagonist. She was eighteen when diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Angelina Jolie as Lisa Rowe, diagnosed as a sociopath. She is charismatic, manipulative, rebellious and abusive. She's been in the institution since she was twelve, and has escaped several times over her eight years at the institution, but is always caught and is brought back eventually. She is looked up to by the other patients in the ward.
Brittany Murphy as Daisy Randone, a sexually abused seventeen year-old-girl with bulimia and OCD who cuts herself. She keeps the carcasses of the cooked chicken that her father brings her in her room. She later commits suicide the morning after being verbally attacked by Lisa.
Clea DuVall as Georgina Tuskin, a pathological liar. She is Susanna's roommate, and is seventeen.
Elisabeth Moss as Polly "Torch" Clark, a burn victim. She is sixteen and is very childlike and easily upset.
Angela Bettis as Janet Webber, an anorexic. Like Lisa she is abrasive and seemingly aloof, but is also easily irritated or upset. She is twenty-two.
Jillian Armenante as Cynthia Crowley. She claims that she is a sociopath like Lisa, but Lisa denies this claim and states that she is a "dyke". She is easily amused.
Travis Fine as John, an orderly, who's smitten with Susanna. He's later sent to work at the men's ward after he and Susanna kiss and sleep together.
Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Crumble, a colleague of Susanna's father and retired therapist, but sees Susanna as a patient as a favor to her father and is the one that sends her to Claymoore.
Jeffrey Tambor as Dr. Melvin Potts
Joanna Kerns as Annette Kaysen, Susanna's mother.
Ray Baker as Carl Kaysen, Susanna's father.
Jared Leto as Tobias "Toby" Jacobs, Susanna's ex-boyfriend who plans to escape to Canada after being drafted into the military.
Vanessa Redgrave as Dr. Sonia Wick.
Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie Owens, RN.
Bruce Altman as Professor Gilcrest, a college professor who Susanna had an affair with.
Mary Kay Place as Barbara Gilcrest, Professor Gilcrest's wife.
KaDee Strickland as Bonnie Gilcrest, Professor Gilcrest's daughter.
Robin Reck as Theresa McCullian.
Misha Collins as Tony
In a 2000 Charlie Rose interview, Ryder revealed her strong passion to produce the film, indicating that it took seven years to get to the screen. After reading the book, Ryder immediately tried to secure the rights; however, a week earlier they had been purchased by Douglas Wick. Ryder then decided to team up with Wick along with her manager Carol Bodie, who acted as executive producer along with Ryder. Ryder also stated that she tried hard to persuade James Mangold to direct the film, who was reluctant at first. She states that Mangold was the right man for the role as director after she saw his directorial debut Heavy, which explored similar themes to Girl, Interrupted.
Filming took place along Main Street in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as in Harrisburg State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg was chosen for its old-fashioned appearance and its old-style drugstore simply titled "Drugs", all of which gave the film its time-dated appearance. A shot seen in the trailer shows the van traveling towards downtown Harrisburg over the State Street Bridge, where the Capitol building is clearly visible. Deleted scenes were also filmed at Reading's Public Museum.
The film received mixed reviews upon release. However, Angelina Jolie's performance received critical acclaim. Girl, Interrupted currently holds a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a rating of 51 on Metacritic, indicating largely mixed reviews from critics.
Stephen Holden in The New York Times wrote: "Girl, Interrupted is a small, intense period piece with a hardheaded tough-love attitude toward lazy, self-indulgent little girls flirting with madness: You can drive yourself crazy, or you can get over it. The choice is yours."
Tom Coates from the BBC wrote: "Girl, Interrupted is a decent adaptation of her memoir of this period, neatened up and polished for an audience more familiar with gloss than grit."
The author, Susanna Kaysen, was among the detractors of the film, accusing Mangold of adding "melodramatic drivel" to the story by inventing plot points that never happened in the book (such as Lisa and Susanna running away together).Academy Award
Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Angelina Jolie
Golden Globe Award
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture — Angelina Jolie
Screen Actors Guild Award
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role — Angelina Jolie
Teen Choice Awards
Choice Movie: Drama (nominated)
- The Doors performing "Roadhouse Blues"
- Merrilee Rush performing "Angel of the Morning"
- Petula Clark performing "Downtown"
- Skeeter Davis performing "The End of the World"
- Aretha Franklin performing "Night Time Is the Right Time"
- Jefferson Airplane performing "Comin' Back to Me"
- Them performing "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"
- The Chambers Brothers performing "Time Has Come Today'"
- The Band performing "The Weight"
- The Mamas & the Papas performing "Got a Feeling"
- Wilco performing "How to Fight Loneliness"
- Simon & Garfunkel performing "Bookends Theme"