Prozac Nation tells the true story of writer Elizabeth Wurtzel’s battle with depression and addiction while studying journalism at Harvard, based on her best-selling memoirs.
Whether it’s the curiosity (or nosiness, as some may call it) in me or the sheer fascination as to what makes people tick I don’t know, but I can’t get enough of films that explore turning points in people’s lives.
So often a character that is vivid and exciting in a book can become stale and lifeless when transformed onto screen, but after reading Prozac Nation I wasn’t the slightest bit worried when I saw the cast for the film. From the moment it started, to the sound of fingers furiously tapping across a keyboard (such a familiar noise) I had a feeling it was going to be amazing.
Christina Ricci played Lizzie, the troubled but talented writer to perfection. There is so much about her character that I can relate and sympathise with. I, as a writer, know all too well the struggles of creativity and the unreliable path it paves. And even the desperation and madness it can stir within you when trying to pluck originality from somewhere deep inside your brain. But luckily for me, I get distracted easily and always find a way of stopping myself from becoming obsessed, or dangerously obsessed in Lizzie’s case, with a project. And Prozac Nation is a glimpse into the mind of someone who is unable to stop. Someone who can’t help but become so fully absorbed in something that it consumes her.
It is a tale of one girl losing her grip on reality, but it also explores society’s attitudes towards depression, and how it is commonly treated. In this film, what I find particularly interesting — and shocking — is the use of prescription drugs as a way of helping her deal with her fight against drug addiction and depression. It also studies the relationship someone has with therapy, and their therapist as well as using flashbacks to show where her troubles began.
Elizabeth Wurtzel is an incredible writer, and whether you’ve read any of her work or not that comes across strongly in this film. But, it doesn’t hold back when showcasing her dark side. During her manic struggle with work, exhaustion, addiction and the onset of depression the direction becomes more frantic and erratic to give us a sense of what it’s like to be inside her mind.
Talk about perfect casting, not only does Christina Ricci actually look like Elizabeth Wurtzel but she kicks so much ass at playing a girl who is literally spiralling out of control. There are moments in this film where we get an up close and personal look at someone who just can’t cope with her own emotions, and abilities yet she seems so aware of her actions that it’s like a form of torture for her. As she narrates the film, you know she is totally aware of where she is going wrong but she can’t stop it. It’s like fingernails down a chalk board…
Christina Ricci and Jessica Lange have an amazing, off beat chemistry together that is so believable. I grew up watching Jessica Lange in Tootsie, and from a young age I picked up her ability to just ooze charisma and charm every time she stepped on screen. And here, in Prozac Nation, as a mom sick with worry and teeming with frustration for her daughter she’s still charismatic and buoyant with her bouncy blonde perm and her powder pink suits as she tries to stitch her family together.
Cinematography is a biggie for me — blame it on my years of studying art and photography, but I am obsessed with framing, lighting and clever use of panning and camera angles. It drives me crazy when directors don’t exploit the technology they have at their fingertips, but in Prozac Nation I don’t have any complaints. You could pause it at any moment during this film and you would be left with a beautiful photograph on your screen. Each shot is carefully thought out, and intricate — and really reflects the mood of the protagonist.
This movie is an interesting insight into someone’s mind, and as much as it might feel a little (or a lot) voyeuristic at times it is worth watching for the amazing screenplay and acting alone. It’s not a glamorous film, and it won’t leave you feeling full of admiration for characters you wish you could be best friends with but it will leave you with lots to think about and be intrigued by — and that, for me, is the mark of a great movie.
I need someone to shut off my brain, and turn on my heart