What Really Happened in the Movie Suckerpunch?
This is my take on it.
Sweat Pea is the narrator from the start, and narrating in the past tense ie: she is narrating the events that happened up to her catching the bus after escaping. So she will narrate the events as her imagination remembers them. All the fantasy scenes are Sweet Pea’s exaggerated story telling (purposeful metaphor or due to madness I’m not sure, I prefer to think the former). Hence the boy is the same boy from the trenches, the bus driver is the Wise Man. Her memory of the events is a jumble of the real and imagined events and characters she has encountered.
Baby Doll is a real person who came to the asylum with the intent to escape. Prior to Baby Doll arriving Sweet Pea’s sister Rocket had attempted to escape with two other girls (Amber and Blondie) who all died in the escape. Hence Sweet Pea was at first resistant to Baby Dolls plan, but Baby Doll eventually encouraged her to ‘fight’ (which as narrator she mentions twice, in the first scene and in the last word of the movie). Baby doll was determined and resourceful, just as she had been to escape her room at the beginning and confront her step-father.
As Baby Doll and Sweat Pea’s friendship develops (remember, the other girls are already dead, and not a part of Baby Doll’s story), Baby Doll shares her fantastical perception of the mental institution as a brothel, including her first fantasy scene where she gets the items from the Wise Man, and they both get carried away with the fantasy as a way to carry out the steps needed to escape. The fantasy gives them courage, self-belief and hope. All this goes into Sweat Pea’s mind and contributes to her later narration. As I said above, I feel her narration may be purposely metaphorical, as if to say when you face problems in life, use your imagination to put things in terms you can deal with. A hint here, where Gorski says: ” I am going to start your music, you are safe, its all safe. Now relax, and just let go.. It’s like we talk about, you control this world.. Let the pain go… let the hurt go… let the guilt go.. what you are imagining right now, that world you control? That place can be as real as any pain”
Once they were outside and Baby Doll realised only one of them can escape it all comes clear to her. She cannot bear the reality any longer. If she escapes she will have no where to go and will have to come to terms with having killed her own sister. So she covers for Sweat Pea. This is the 5th item she imagined at the start but hadn’t grasped yet. By setting Sweat Pea free, she freed herself. This is the suckerpunch of the movie.
Right at the start Sweet Pea says “Everyone has an angel, a guardian who watches over us. We can’t know what form they’ll take: One day old man. Next day, little girl.”. The old man is the bus driver, the little girl is Baby Doll.
And finally in the last scene, Sweet Pea remembers how Baby Doll’s own story taught her to believe in herself:
“Who honors those we love for the very life we live? Who sends monsters to kill us, and at the same time sings that we will never die? Who teaches us what’s real and how to laugh at lies? Who decides why we live and what we’ll die to defend? Who chains us? And Who holds the key that can set us free… It’s You. You have all the weapons you need. Now Fight!”