The fact that Angelina Jolie is an Academy-Award-winner seems to be rather forgotten today since by now she is mostly known as one half of Hollywood’s hottest couple. But in 2000, she took home an Oscar for playing a wild and rebellious patient in a mental institution in what was supposed to be a showcase for Winona Ryder.
My problem with this performance is mostly that it’s a very one-dimensional role in which Angelina Jolie gives a performance that seems to often too limited. Every gesture, every look, every line-delivery indicates that Lisa is crazy, rebellious, wild, uncontrollable – this is certainly impressive when she appears for the first time but ultimately her performance becomes rather repetitious very soon. Since Angelina Jolie isn’t given any more depth in her character, this kind of ‘surface-acting’ is all she can do to succeed in her part and I don’t blame her for trying and applaud her for being such a force of nature but somehow everything about her feels too much out of the book ‘How to play crazy in 10 days’. Because of this, her work feels also very calculated and contrasts sometimes with the rebellious and unpredictable character she plays – basically, it’s a calculated attempt to appear spontaneous and so Angelina Jolie tried to think of as many unusual moves and gestures as possible while letting her voice run the whole spectrum from ‘mousy’ to ‘menacing’. Angelina Jolie also does not get much help from the director of the movie who tried to turn Lisa into some kind of crazy queen in the hospital (she moves her head with a cigarette in her mouth and immediately a hand with fire appears out of nowhere).
So, after explaining the limitations of the parts and her performance I want to say that within these limitations Angelina Jolie gives a very strong performance. Yes, her hysterics are very predictable but she still commands the screen effortlessly and terrifies everyone around her in a very intense, uncomfortable way. She’s able to show that Lisa is a woman who is very fascinating at first but who can put you off just as easily a few moments later. Angelina Jolie also tries to show some new sides of Lisa once she and Winona Ryder are out of the hospital and the moments when she terrorises a former friend with her way of talking is done masterfully.
So, a limited role and a limited performance but very impressive within these limitations.