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Miramax Pictures presents

Prozac Nation (2001)

Mrs. Wurtzel: Mom, she looks beautiful.
Elizabeth Wurtzel: Pity. I was going for psychotic.- Jessica Lange, Christina Ricci

Stars: Christina Ricci
Other Stars: Jessica Lange, Jason Biggs, Michelle Williams, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Anne Heche, Zoe Miller, Nicholas Campbell, Lou Reed
Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg

MPAA Rating: R for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity and some disturbing images
Run Time: 01h:34m:38s
Release Date: 2005-07-05
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

It is usually the kiss of death when a proposed feature film misses its release date, gets shelved and then eventually premieres on cable. Those are generally indicators of a flawed product in some way, a film that despite the best intentions got lost along the way somewhere. In this adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's bestselling autobiographical work, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, director Erik Skjoldbjærg (Insomnia) takes on Wurtzel's tale of personal depression, and short of a few fests, the final product never got a proper push or release.

That's unfortunate for Prozac Nation, because Christina Ricci—playing Wurtzel—steps up with a smart performance that really captures the rollercoaster ride of depression. The film opens with a nearly catatonic Wurtzel about to set off to Harvard on a journalism scholarship, under the overbearing eye of her chain-smoking mother (Jessica Lange). Wurtzel's writing is the only way she can seem to express herself, and when her yet undiagnosed depression begins to rage it sets in motion a rolling wave of emotional wreckage and shattered relationships that should ring true to anyone who has ever experienced the throes of depression firsthand. And it might be that reality that made Skjoldbjærg's film so unmarketable, because Ricci's Wurtzel comes across as not particularly likeable, and unless one can grasp how depression can be like a light switch as far as severe personality shifts are concerned, she might be perceived as nothing more than a moody, unpleasant person. Hardly the kind of mainstream hook for movie audiences, I guess, but a wonderful turn by Ricci here.

Skjoldbjærg doesn't just rely on Ricci, and he dots Prozac Nation with a handful of strong supporting roles, most notably Jessica Lange's Frances Farmer-induced histrionics as Wurtzel's mother, here exploding in expectedly tight bursts of shrieking drama. Some of the more hyper scenes come across a bit too much like "acting," but small moments, such as the horribly off-the-tracks birthday party, give Lange the chance to show her range from the other end of the spectrum. Likewise with Jason Biggs, who turns off his buffoonish one-note American Pie persona and gives such a soft, genuinely human performance as Wurtzel's semi-boyfriend Rafe that I had to double check that it was really the same guy. The strongest and most watchable of the supporting players, though, is Michelle Williams, playing Ruby, Wurtzel's amazingly patient college roomie. She effortlessly takes on a potentially flat, dumped-on secondary character and counters Ricci's wild ride with a three-dimensional sense of stability, compassion and eventual forced distance.

Late in the film, when Wurtzel's therapist (played by Anne Heche) finally prescribes the titular medication to attempt to control the depression, the voiceover narration by Ricci refers to the pills as providing "breathing space." Those two words say quite a bit, because depression doesn't necessarily have a happy ending (there is no miraculous "you're cured!"), and Skjoldbjærg seems to get that as Prozac Nation seems to be in constant motion away from anything too upbeat. That too, may have contributed to the shuffle-and-hide routine that this film received, because this isn't a "girl gets healed" kind of story, and instead has a "girl gets medicated" theme. Maybe not so perfect, but ultimately more real.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Miramax has issued Prozac Nation in a 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. Image quality reveals a consistently solid level of detail and sharpness, with the carefully selected color palette from Erik Skjoldbjærg never appearing overtly vibrant. There is a bit of shimmer in spots, but otherwise a fine (if not occasionally unremarkable) transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The main audio choice is a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track, and though it forsakes any real presence in the rear channels, the dialogue upfront remains crisp and clean.

A Spanish language 2.0 surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cursed, Dear Frankie
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Aside from a couple of trailers, the only other extra is an installment of The Sundance Channel series Anatomy of a Scene (19m:44s). But considering that series is regularly better than 95% of the standard issue DVD featurettes, it isn't a bad trade-off. As you might expect from the title, one particular scene is dissected, in this case the awkward birthday party for Elizabeth thrown by her mother, which quickly dissolves into ugliness. It's a nice concept to go deep into one scene, and we learn how even the colors of the drapes were carefully selected for Skjoldbjærg to convey just the right mood of unease.

The disc is cut into 15 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

It is something of a head scratcher why Prozac Nation got the short end of the distribution/promotion stick, because Christina Ricci is completely compelling and (more importantly) believable as depression-laced author Elizabeth Wurtzel. If you have ever been touched by someone suffering from depression in your life, Ricci's performance will likely echo with some unpleasant familiarity.


Rich Rosell 2005-07-04