Sitting down to watch Prozac Nation, I think I expected a smarter movie. Not that the film lacked intelligence, but its title suggested much more than the film actually delivers. Honestly, I expected an exploration of depression and the societal dependence on anti-depressants like, well, Prozac. I didn’t get that. Instead, Prozac Nation charts the repetitive spiral of a young woman in the late 1980s as she slowly self destructs while attending Harvard University.
Christina Ricci is a terrific actress, and delivers a strong performance as Elizabeth Wurzel, a real life writer who’s life (and book) this movie is based upon. Michelle Williams is also good, but that’s pretty much the end of the good performances. The cast is pretty much rounded out with Jessica Lange, as Ricci’s mother, and Jason Biggs, as Ricci’s boyfriend.
But while I didn’t dislike this film, I couldn’t really relate to it very well, either. I simply could not connect with Ricci’s Elizabeth. The emotionally twisted girl, who often lashed out at others and did things like go down on her friend’s boyfriend in a bathroom, was so extreme that I couldn’t find any point at which I could sympathize with her plight. Not so much because I didn’t like her, but because I couldn’t understand her. And Prozac Nation does little to help you understand her. There are some indications, such as her parents divorce when she was young and the constant, vicious bickering they would put her in the middle of repeatedly.
It isn’t until the end that she begins to take medication for her difficulties. And, to Tom Cruise’s disgust I’m sure, she actually begins to get better. But her struggle with accepting this medication and the effects it has on her is only briefly addressed. So much so, that I just didn’t get the point of the title. To me, Prozac Nationsuggests far more than the film actually explores. Perhaps the book got into more detail about the issue of anti-depressants, I don’t know.
To be honest, the other issue I had with the film was the extended bit of topless Christina Ricci. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with a little boobage. But, this is the chick who played Wednesday! I mean, when I first saw her in a movie, she was just a kid. It seemed strange to see her in the buff on screen. I suppose it’s the hip thing for young actresses to do. Tell the world that they’re all grown up and all, but I wonder — does this mean Dakota Fanning will some day go all naturale someday?
That just seems wrong.
The Prozac Nation DVD contains only a single special feature, and that’ s an episode of “Anatomy of a Scene” from the Sundance channel. The lack of features probably is connected to the fact that this film was made back in 2001, and was shelved for several years before getting released overseas. I can’t really argue with this though, because it’s not a very strong film. Ricci does a great job, but Lange’s performance is a bit weak, and Biggs delivers his most uncomfortable and wooden acting to date. That accompanied by a main character that is difficult to sympathize or relate to makes this film a little too disconnected.