Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) isn't just having trouble fitting in; she's gone slightly wacky. Her therapist sends her to an asylum to cure her slight wackiness by living with people who are completely wacky, along with a few professionals who will try to nurse her back to health.
Ryder's considerable acting talents aren't often on display as she sleepwalks through most of this movie. Even when she makes important decisions and reaches big turning points it's all matter of fact, devoid of any passion. Fortunately, one of the other patients rescues the movie.
Comparisons to "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's" nest are inevitable. This feels very much like a female version of that classic movie. But there is one huge difference (besides replacing the sanctimonious Nurse Rached with Whoppi Goldberg's compassionate Valerie). Nicholson was the star; there was no question the story revolved around McMurphy. Some of his fellow inmates were great characters and important to the story, but none of them lit up the screen the way he did. Ryder is not so lucky. Although her character is supposed to be the center of the film, she is not the most interesting or engaging person on screen. That job goes to Agnelina Jolie, as Lisa, who steals every scene she's in. She's passionate and sexy and crazy and impulsive and impossible to look away from. When she enters a scene the rest of the actors could take a nap and the audience wouldn't notice.
This is fortunate, as it saves the movie. Without Jolie the film would be a real snoozer, rating three Z's and a star and a half. But her performance wakes up the whole thing, infuses it with life and sparkle, and makes it worth seeing.
© 2000 Dave Hitt
| Recent Reviews | Movie Index | Home Page | Table of Contents |