Prozac Nation review by Mike Long

Welcome again to another edition of "Shelved Movie Theater", the forum where we discuss films which feature recognizable actors which were made and then sat gathering dust for years. Today's entry comes from our favorite studio for this particular genre, Miramax and the movie is Prozac Nation, based on the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Shot in 2000, the film should have been a no-brainer as it came from a well-known book and starred many familiar faces. The film played various places around the globe and finally premiered on cable in the U.S. earlier this year. The movie has now limped onto DVD for us to judge.

Christina Ricci stars in Prozac Nation as Wurtzel, a young woman who is leaving her Manhattan home which she shares with her mother, Sarah (Jessica Lange), to attend Harvard on a journalism scholarship. Besides the typical freshman anxieties, Elizabeth seems like a normal college student, and immediately bonds with her roommate, Ruby (Michelle Williams). Elizabeth writes a review of a Lou Reed concert for the college paper and is given an award for the article by Rolling Stone magazine. Everything seems to be going well for this young woman.

Then, things begin to spiral out of control. Elizabeth feels that she needs to top her Lou Reed article and spends sleepless days on end trying to write. Her intake of drugs and alcohol increases, as does her verbal and emotional abuse of her friends. When she finally crashes, Elizabeth seeks treatment from local psychiatrist Dr. Sterling (Anne Heche). She also begins to see a nice boy named Rafe (Jason Biggs). But how long can Elizabeth suppress her self-destructive personality?

For some reason, I'm always drawn to these films whose releases are delayed and about 80% of the time I can't figure out why they shelved because, to be quite frank, they're usually no worse than all of the other crap out there. But, with Prozac Nation, there's no mystery as to why it was held back as the movie simply isn't very good, despite the well-known cast.

The movie's biggest flaw should have been evident from the makers of Prozac Nation from the start -- Elizabeth is an extremely unlikable person and there's no way that the audience is going to get behind her or care about what happens to her. Yes, the character's portrayal is most likely accurate as to what transpired in Wurtzel's real life, but Elizabeth is a bitchy nag of a person and the film quickly reaches a point in which the audience wants to see her receive her comeuppance as opposed to any sort of recovery. Elizabeth's erratic behavior also becomes very repetitive, as she pushes everyone away from her and constantly complains to Dr. Sterling that therapy doesn't work. The cast appears to be trying hard...maybe a bit too hard. Jessica Lange, here woefully miscast, shamelessly overacts, while Christina Ricci easily breaks the record for fleeing a room set by Elizabeth Berkeley in Showgirls.

However, my biggest problem with Prozac Nation is that it has no clear message and that it doesn't know what it's talking about. The story is told in flashback, so from the outset we know that Elizabeth gets better to some extent. She refers to the pharmacy at which she gets her Prozac as a "crack house" and yet, she admits that Prozac helped her. So, is this an indictment of medication or a tribute to it? There is also an allusion to the fact that Americans are over-medicated, but this is never explored. In addition, the clinical terms thrown around in the film are off-base. Everyone refers to Elizabeth as being depressed, but her symptoms are much closer to borderline personality disorder. While this may seem like nitpicking, it just further spells out the mess that this film is. As a film lover, I don't think any movie deserves to be hidden away, but Prozac Nation should have come with a warning label and a child-proof cap.

Prozac Nation is dispensed to DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good as the picture is sharp and clear. The colors are good, and there is no overt grain on the image. The movie does have a somewhat flat look, but it's difficult to tell if this is a result of the transfer or the manner in which the film was shot. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track gives us clear and audible dialogue with no hissing or distortion. The only time that the track really comes to life is during the frequent use of incident rock music -- at these times, the surround sound channels perform quite well.

The only extra on the DVD is an episode of Sundance Channel's "Anatomy of a Scene". In this 20-minute segment, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a key scene in the film. This offers comments from the actors and crew, including the director and screenwriter. This is a well-made show and there's some good information here, but one can't help but wonder what these individuals would have done had they known that the film would struggle to be seen at all.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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