I must admit feelings of suspicion before popping in the DVD copy of Prozac Nation:. I remember seeing the theatrical trailer years ago. It was not, by any means, poor advertisement. I had taken a liking to the acting of Christina Ricci, and the film looked like a decent outing with a talented supporting cast. So I waited for the film to come out. Then I waited some more. Years passed and the film never popped up at my local multiplex. It is generally not a good sign that a film is shelved for so long, but I s…ill kept an eye out for its theatrical release.
However, Prozac Nation: never did get that theatrical release. Instead Miramax gave it a cable debut on its sister network Starz/Encore, and the film went straight to DVD. Now I have seen awful films that have been delayed for years, and those titles were even given a theatrical release. Since Prozac Nation: was not even given that freedom, I couldn’t help but suspect a terrible film. Just when I had started thinking about the film after seeing an advertisement on Encore, a copy of the film ended up on my doorstep a few days ago for review. Truthfully speaking, I don’t quite see what all the delays were about. This may not be a wonderful picture, but it certainly deserved more respect than some of the other crap that reaches screens across the world.
Based on the autobiographical novel from Elizabeth Wurtzel, Nation follows Wurtzel’s (Christina Ricci) rough journey through college. Though I think “rough” is an understatement. Once dropped off at the dorm by her overbearing mother (Jessica Lange), Elizabeth falls into a downward spiral almost immediately. Her obsession over becoming the next top dog writer for Rolling Stone magazine sends Elizabeth into a whirlwind of sleep deprivation, ecstasy, cocaine, alcoholism, depression, and (of course) Prozac.
Elizabeth’s psychological condition forces her to seek help from a therapist (Anne Heche). She even manages to seek out a compassionate, caring boyfriend named Rafe (Jason Biggs) to save her from the negative influences surrounding her. Sadly, whether she likes it or not, the psychological damage from her traumatic upbringing constantly envelopes her with a tidal wave of darkness. Like many people in the world, she stands in line at the pharmacy for another serving of life-enhancing Prozac.
Prozac Nation: is no different from all of the weepy depictions out there of people’s lives going down the toilet. It plays like a Lifetime movie of the week. Though I speak highly of it because I expected a disaster. For a film to sit in limbo for so long and receive a mere video release, I can only assume bad results. However, Nation is a satisfactorily crafted drug movie that evokes good performances from its leading lady and the other supporting players.
The screenplay based on Wurtzel’s book adds some magical poetic touch-ups. Scenes of inner monologue and recitation of Wurtzel’s writings give flavor to bland scenes. The direction sometimes goes perfectly hand-in-hand with these words. One particular scene where Elizabeth attends a Lou Reed concert on ecstasy while writing a music review creates a moment that combines euphoria with music criticism.
Ricci turns in a riveting performance as usual. Though I do sense typecasting in her midst. She is a master at playing dark, goth type girls with bad attitudes, and once again does so here. A subject of this matter has been done numerous times. So what separates Prozac from the rest of the lot? The solid performances from Ricci and Biggs help to drag you into their lives and feel for them. This results in a highly interesting film that separates itself from all the other drug type films.
The film is presented in 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen which gives the film an overall nice appearance. The feature on this disc goes to a great length to inform us just how far the director and director of photography went in keeping a close eye on the detail of the picture. Colors are pretty deep and definition is decently sharp here. Considering the subject of the film, the overall picture tends to lean more toward the darker side.
The film boasts a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound which makes its presence know very early in the film with a very loud, good, and deep bass thump. There is, unfortunately, very little use of the surrounding speakers. The voices firmly are anchored in the center speak only which makes the dialogue extremely clear. This results in the film being simple and easy to watch.
Terrible! What a lack of special features on this disc! So disappointing!
- Anatomy of a Scene (19:00) This feature follows the scene entitled “Elizabeth’s Birthday.” Here the director, producer, writer, editor, and actors talk about the scene giving much detail about the scene. Nothing really amazing here.
If not for the absolutely poor selection of special features on this disc, I could easily recommend this for a purchase. The Audio and Visual is near excellent for a film this dark and the acting showcases some of the better work of Biggs and Ricci. If you are the type of person who turns on Lifetime and falls for those true life stories, do yourself the favor and at least rent the film. Heck now that I think about it, everyone should see this film if you want to see a moving story, impressive acting, and simply want to watch a good film!
Special Features List
- Anatomy of a Scene