"Prozac Nation" wasn't ever going to be a blockbuster, but the filmed adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's novel was at least a highly anticipated effort. Wurtzel's novel, which gained a cult following, was at least pretty intresting (as far as I can remember), so it was a surprise that the movie took just about forever to be released. Filmed originally in 2000, the movie was going to be released in 2001, then was shelved indefinitely due to, apparently, test audiences not responding well, as well as comments from Wurtzel. The picture eventually had its premiere, not in theaters or on video, but on the Starz! cable network.
So far, all signs point to "not particularly good", but the movie itself isn't as bad as its history would suggest. The film stars Christina Ricci (who also gets producer credit) as Wurtzel, a troubled girl just entering college at Harvard. She quickly makes friends with Ruby (Michelle Williams), finds a boyfriend in Rafe (Jason Biggs) and gets a writing gig. However, her problems with depression linger, she's irritated by her mother (Jessica Lange) and her father's leaving still has an effect on her.
It's not long before Wurtzel changes for the worse, becoming angry with her friends and alienating herself, staying up all night and doing drugs and generally becoming a wreck. She can't even finish the writing that she's working on. Finally, Elizabeth allows others to help her to seek out help and get her life back on track. The movie doesn't seem much different than any number of movies that have been made about depression in the past, and it's pretty uneventful, as well.
With "Prozac" being the follow-up for director Erik Skjoldbjærg after the original "Insomnia", there were pretty high hopes the film, but there's a rather substancial amount that goes wrong here. The biggest fault is that the movie uses possibly the most voiceover narration that I've ever heard in a film, and Ricci's narration doesn't exactly go smoothly over the events unfolding. Secondly, the movie is emotionally distant, with a tone that could certainly be described as cold and flat. Spporting characters, such as Michelle Williams (who gives it a good try, and continues to be completely underappreciated), pretty much evaporate after their usefulness is over. Jason Biggs, who also worked with Ricci in Woody Allen's "Anything Else", looks uncomfortable in the role.
Ricci, however, generally gives it her all, despite the fact that the adaptation of the book never really lets us into the character, even with the heaping helpings of voiceover. Skjoldbjærg's picture looks minimalist, with no real visual style to speak of (aside from a few random camera tricks), which doesn't do much to distinguish the flick. Overall, it's a disappointment.
There seems to have been many different DVDs in other regions that have presented themselves as "unrated". Having never seen the film prior, I'm not sure about different versions, but the R-rated, 95-minute version offered here is four minute shorter than the reportedly 99-minute version that went on the festival circuit. Still, there is some nudity (as the cover art subtly promotes) fairly briefly seen here.
VIDEO: Miramax presents "Prozac Nation" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film's original aspect ratio. Image quality is pretty standard, never looking terrible and never looking exceptional, either. Sharpness and detail are fine, as the picture appears mostly crisp, although occasionally, definition waivers as the image can appear soft in some scenes.
Aside from that, the picture also displayed some minor edge enhancement and pixelation. For a movie that's gathered dust for so long, it appears unexpectedly clean, with no dirt, dust or other instances of wear. Colors look subdued, and appear accurately presented.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is essentially completely dialogue-driven, with no real noticable surround use. Audio quality is fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: A Sundance Channel "Anatomy of a Scene" documentary is the only extra.
Final Thoughts: "Prozac Nation" is a disappointment, with the movie never really allowing us inside the thoughts of the main character, despite loads of voiceover. It's also difficult to sustain interest, given the movie's chilly tone and rather uneventful plot. On a positive note, Ricci gives a solid effort towards a project she's been trying to get off the ground for a long time. Miramax's DVD provides adequate audio/video quality, with only one supplement.