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PROZAC NATION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Christina Ricci, Jason Biggs, Michelle Williams, Jessica Lange, Anne Heche
Director:  Erik Skjoldbjaerg
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  Anatomy of a Scene
Length:  95 Minutes
Release Date:  July 5, 2005

"Have you had any drugs in the last 24 hours?"

"No...well, I guess I snorted some coke and smoked some pot, but you know...that was just to make the ecstasy last longer."

Film **

It was a long, strange trip for Elizabeth Wurtzel, and it was a long, strange trip getting the movie based on her book in front of audiences.  Prozac Nation chronicled her early college years, where depression nearly destroyed her and robbed her of all her promise.  It was made into a film and scheduled for release in 2001, but never came out...partly because of the difficult-to-like nature of Wurtzel as a character, but also because her remarks about 9/11 and open disparaging of the picture made it a tough sell.

But with DVD, all things are possible, and now for fans of the book or just the culturally curious, Prozac Nation is available in all its neurotic glory to behold.  It stars Christina Ricci in possibly her best performance to date as Elizabeth.  It's a meaty role that took courage and talent...Ms. Ricci had to invest a lot of pain in a character that we can only sympathize with so far.  Depression is a real and serious ailment, but one can only be trapped in the throes of someone else's imbalance for so long.

The product of a broken home where her father had practically no involvement in her life, Elizabeth earns a scholarship to Harvard to study journalism.  Her talent for writing attracts the attention of Rolling Stone in her freshman year, and her future certainly seemed bright.  But she suffered critically from a depression that caused her moods to swing quickly and without warning.  Her introduction to drugs and alcohol do little to help the problem.  Her mother (Lange) seems a bit too unhinged herself to be of any help, and the therapist (Heche) she goes to doesn't seem bring her around.

She's the kind of person that will suddenly and irrationally lash out at those she loves, only to be reduced to apologetic tears in the next.  A possible love interest (Biggs) suffers the most; he cares for her and wants to help her, but when she's out of sorts, what she gives him can only be described as abuse.

I love Christina Ricci as an actress, and have all the way back to her first childhood roles.  She's at her best when playing involving roles in independent productions like Pumpkin and this film.  Her ability to connect with an emotionally tormented young woman is very real and very engrossing, and for that reason alone, the movie merits at least a partial recommendation.

But we soon feel like most of the people in Elizabeth's life...we sympathize up to a point, and we understand that she's not always in control of what she does, but we just can't take it anymore, either.  As much as we'd like to think a kind, understanding soul would help her find her way, we don't want to BE that soul any more than the other characters in the film.

Even the book itself is a bit of self-indulgence on Elizabeth's part.  I'm sure it was a therapeutic experience for her to write it, but what good does it do us to be trapped in her disorder from cover to cover or for the running time of the movie?  Considering the book became a best-seller, I guess many were at least curious enough to try.

Those may be the same kind of people who are willing to try the movie.  I was one of them.  I have no regrets in finally seeing the infamous picture after so many years in limbo, and I truly relished Christina Ricci's wonderful work.  But there comes a point when you just want to say "enough".

BONUS TRIVIA I:  This movie features Christina Ricci's only nude scene to date.

BONUS TRIVIA II:  Ricci and Biggs would reunite for Woody Allen's Anything Else.

Video ***

The anamorphic transfer from Miramax is nicely done...for an indie film, there are a lot of nicely shot interior and exterior sequences, and some pretty handy camerawork.  Images are generally clean and crisp throughout, with good tones and only a slight touch of softness every now and then.

Audio ***

For a dialogue-oriented film, the 5.1 soundtrack is rather striking...some great alt rock from the 80s give the soundtrack a little punch, and some crowd and party scenes keep the front and rear stages active.  Dialogue is strong and clean throughout, and there's some dynamic range at play.

Features *

The only extra is the "Anatomy of a Scene" Sundance Channel special, which focuses on a crucial birthday party sequence.

Summary:

Christina Ricci absolutely shines in Prozac Nation.  But I can't help but feel the material wasn't much to base a movie on...Elizabeth Wurtzel made for an impressive acting exercise, but her self-indulgent story will try even the most sensitive of hearts.

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