‘Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story’ review

As someone with a journalism background, Nellie Bly was a name I heard often. She was the first American investigative journalist; she was a fighter for women’s rights; she exposed the mistreatment and conditions of mental institutions. She was and is a journalism legend.

Naturally, I was intrigued when I heard Lifetime was adapting her story into a made-for-TV movie.

I read 10 Days in a Madhouse last year for one of my classes, and it was riveting, but also made me sickened by the past treatment of sickly women. However, Bly was a courageous woman who wanted to tell the women’s stories and save them from the abuse.

Lifetime’s portrayal of Nellie Bly’s expose is so important, and it definitely needed to be televised. This movie made me angry and disappointed in the mistreatment of women in mental institutions. It also made me grateful for journalists like Nellie Bly who infiltrated such institutions to change things.

Nellie Bly got sh** done! She’s a wonderful example of a journalist — a WOMAN journalist — who used her talent and knowledge to make a difference in this world.

The story

As I mentioned before, this story made me angry. It made me want to be an investigative journalist to uncover and fix things. Bly was only 23 when she went into the asylum, which blows me away, being only 1 year younger than Bly. She was a woman who wanted to make a difference and was willing to do something truly terrifying for others. I can’t even imagine.

Lifetime did wonderfully in chronicling the horrors of the mental institutions of the past. They highlighted the terror that Ms. Grady, Dr. Josiah (scumbag) and her nurses reigned down onto the patients. The movie represented them as the cruel beings that Bly portrayed them to be.

Grady, Josiah and the nurses drove the women to insanity. They didn’t treat the women like they were human. It was absolutely sickening. We saw that Bly was the one who befriended the women, such as Lottie, and tried to help them.

From the cruel murder of Lottie and blatant disregard for her death, to their leech treatments, to the lack of supplies and nurture, and even to one of the nurses outting Nellie, it truly showed the horror of such an institution. I had chills throughout the movie and found myself mad at the past.

I felt so many chills when Nellie came to and told Grady that she was the reason the women go insane. They’re not insane when they get there, but they certainly are when they leave. That was just chilling. The treatments used were not helpful to the women but damaging to their mental health.

One of my favorite moments in the story was when Nellie told Ben that she wanted to write powerful stories that make a difference and didn’t want fluff pieces because she was a woman. So, she took it upon herself to approach Pulitzer with a story pitch. That is some courage that is unparalleled.

Journalists, after all, should be passionate and defiant. Bly was just that, and so she used that to her advantage to go undercover into the madhouse to tell the women’s stories.

The acting

Chills! Christina Ricci did an amazing job in portraying Bly. She played a character with so much depth and so much story. Ricci did Bly justice in such a role.

Judith Light was absolutely terrifying as Ms. Grady. Light illustrated the evilness in Grady that let the audience know what a terrible woman Grady was.

All of the supporting actors, as well, made a difference in the illustration of this movie. They helped to shine a light on this story, which is so important. I felt all of the emotions while watching the movie, which is an important aspect in adapting a story like this into a movie. The cast makes a difference.

Overall, Lifetime made a great and important movie out of Nellie Bly’s expose. It really opened my eyes more to the mistreatment those women endured during that time and the steps it took into righting it. I remember reading Bly’s account of her time in the institute and just being rendered speechless.

There was a problem and she helped to right it. She used her platform to make a change, which is what journalists should be doing. We need more Nellie Blys in this world — journalists who are willing to risk it all for the sake of others. Bly was fearless, intelligent and talented.

Did you watch the account of Nellie’s journey on Lifetime? If not, you should totally check it out. And make sure to read Bly’s first-hand account of her 10 days in the madhouse.

Feature image by Youtube


Madeline Klepec

Madeline is a college student majoring in journalism with a minor in broadcasting. When she isn't writing for Hollywood News Source, Talk Nerdy With Us or her college's paper, she's drinking too much coffee and probably fangirling over Captain Swan. She also likes to watch Hallmark movies and mercilessly rewatches 'Once Upon a Time'.

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