by Mike Corrigan & r & Prozac Nation -- Based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's autobiographical novel of the same name, Prozac Nation is the memoir of a young woman (Christina Ricci) struggling with depression during her first year at Harvard. On the surface, Lizzie has everything going for her: talent, ambition, an Ivy League scholarship, an article published in Rolling Stone. But behind the public persona is a scarred psyche wrestling with profound inadequacy and abandonment issues, which cause her to lash out and fry everyone attracted to her brightly burning flame.
Ricci -- who has crafted a distinctive career by defying expectations and by assuming challenging roles -- does her best with the role as written. Lizzie is self-absorbed to the nth degree (even more so than her hysterical mother, played alarmingly by an overwrought Jessica Lange), and ultimately alienates herself from everyone. Ricci manages to imbue what could have been a thoroughly unlikable character with enough humanity and redemptive potential that we can't help but identify, even empathize, with her plight. The direction by Erik Skjoldbjaerg successfully utilizes time-manipulation techniques to illustrate Lizzie's internal dialogs, which provide context for her unpredictable, destructive behavior. Yet the editing feels erratic, with the film too often lingering on the sordid details of Lizzie's manic exploits while rushing through more reflective moments.
The film only lightly examines one of the most provocative aspects of antidepressant use: the effects of medications like Prozac on the personality. When Ricci complains to her doctor (a frosty Anne Heche) that she feels her emotions have been numbed by the drug, she is told that she's just not used to this new person yet. But who is this new person? And what happened to the old person? Is the give and take of Prozac -- trading the deeply emotional, wildly creative self for an emotionally stable, consistently productive self -- worth it in the final cost-benefit analysis?
Prozac Nation leaves this question largely unanswered. Which makes perfect sense, considering that's pretty much where we, as a society (Tom Cruise excluded), stand today on the subject of better sanity through chemistry.