I first read Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir "Prozac Nation" when I was in college and I was transfixed. The force of Wurtzel's personality and the passion in which she wrote honestly jumped off the page as she described her fight with depression and how she acted out and ultimately how Prozac helped her regain control of herself. Since Wurtzel grew up in the 80's, Prozac was not yet the common medication that it currently is, and was only just beginning to be described. I believe I first saw a preview for the film version of "Prozac Nation" when I was in college and I do know that I've been looking for a release of the movie for at least four years now. The film never caught a theatrical release, was only recently shunted off to a cable premiere, and is now out on DVD. Honestly, what took so long?
Elizabeth (Christina Ricci) is about to enroll at Harvard University as a freshman. She has a journalism scholarship. From the start it is clear that she is somewhat depressed and that she doesn't seem to fit in with the crowds. She says as much during her opening narration. It is also quite clear that her mother (Jessica Lange) is somewhat nuts and certainly oblivious to her daughter's pain. Perhaps it is not that her mother is oblivious, but is purposefully trying to ignore the issue in the hopes that it is suddenly "all better" and that it'll go away. Elizabeth finds solace in her friendship with her new roommate Ruby (Michelle Williams) as the initially seem to be a perfect fit. She even meets a guy (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) whom she falls for.
Everything seems to be perfect, but considering the source material, the title "Prozac Nation", and that there wouldn't be much of a movie if nothing went wrong, something has to change. What changes is that Elizabeth is unable to deal with the pressures of life. The stress of school, her journalism, her relationship, her friendship, her mother, her father, and everything else seems to crash down upon her and Elizabeth more than anyone else starts to unconsciously and unthinkingly sabotage herself.
"Prozac Nation" never did receive very much critical acclaim, so this isn't a story about the little movie that could. The reviews have been mostly negative, scoring a 29% positive on the Tomatometer (at the time of this review). "Prozac Nation" isn't that bad. It lacks the searing performance of Angelina Jolie in "Girl, Interrupted", but it isn't that kind of movie. Ricci is given something to work with in this movie and does a good job with the role of Elizabeth Wurtzel. She seems to nail the depression and alienation quite well, though I think the screenwriter didn't quite round the character off as well making Elizabeth a little shrill and not quite as sympathetic as she could have been. Then again, maybe that really is Wurtzel. The best performance of the film, however, goes to Michelle Williams, as Ruby. Ruby is entirely human and warm and believable as a friend and roommate who becomes frustrated by Elizabeth. It's been several years since she played this role, but I hope it helps to find Williams some quality parts. This film is directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg (the original "Insomnia", not the American remake).
This isn't the best film you will run across, but it is far from the worst and I found myself enjoying the performances of Christina Ricci, Michelle Williams, and even Jason Biggs (yes, he's in it, too). Biggs is very restrained here and far from his "American Pie" days. If the story itself sounds interesting or Christina Ricci is an actress you would like to see more of, then this is worth seeing.