Prozac Nation | Film Review

WORDS BY IRINE LE / @IRLIRINE

"Writing can’t save me... how can I escape the demons in my head?"

Christina Ricci because a household name after playing Wednesday Addams in the macabre Halloween family classic, The Addams Family. Fast forward a few years and she's now playing the fictionalized version of Harvard alumni journalist, Lizzie Wurzel. Set on the stunning campus of one of America's most prestigious Ivy League schools, Prozac Nation serves as an autobiography of Lizzie Wurzel's first few years at Harvard University, where she was studying to become a journalist and battling depression.

Nineteen year-old Lizzie Wurzel (Christina Ricci) seems to be living every aspiring journalist's dream. Growing up on the Upper West Side, an impeccable flair for writing, and a scholarship to Harvard are all things some journalists dream of having. But, behind the successes and enviable parts of Lizzie's life, things are not as glamorous as they appear. Her father is largely absent and she feels her depression getting worse. Lizzie's mother tells her instead that she should be grateful for this scholarship to Harvard and that anyone else would be grateful for the opportunity.

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   Upon arriving at Harvard, Lizzie warms up and her icy exterior is no longer there. She excels in her passion for writing and starts to love Cambridge. After a while, Lizzie no longer finds typical college activities, like going to local concerts or cramming for exams the night before, as enough fun for her. She sets out to lose her virginity, reasoning that this was a rite of passage and way to feeling like herself again. Afterwards, much to the shock of friends around her, Lizzie throws a party to celebrate losing her virginity and excludes everyone important from her life - including her newfound best friend, Ruby (Michelle Williams).
   Though there are early signs that Lizzie is becoming unstable, there are also promising signs and achievements in her journalism career. After winning Rolling Stone's prestigious award for her article on music published in the Harvard Crimson, Lizzie starts to find herself suffering from writer's block and her coping mechanisms are anything but healthy.
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   Lizzie's mother (Jessica Lange) convinces her that the pain she feels is only temporary and that going to therapy will only make things better, but Lizzie believes the complete opposite of her mother's advice. Almost as a silver lining, Lizzie ends up meeting the charming and sweet Rafe (Jason Biggs). Raf is everything she wishes for in a person; he listens to her, when she's with him she starts writing again, and in Lizzie's opinion, most importantly - he makes her feel alive again. Lizzie says herself, she believes that Rafe was sent to save her life as she suddenly does not feel as depressed as before, but will her happiness last?
   When Rafe starts to grow distant from Lizzie without any good explanation, her mind immediately races to the worst possible scenario of what Rafe could be doing that would cause the growing distance between them two. Lizzie starts to find herself spiraling out of control, falling away from the euphoric peace she's been experiencing, and back into the familiar depressive state she's known for most of her life. Lizzie begins to believe that there is not really a way out of her depression and that this is what the rest of her life will be like.
   After a period of unlikely occurrences and misfortune, Lizzie begins to have a change of heart toward therapy, deciding to actually give it a chance instead of blocking out the advice of her therapist like before. With the help of Prozac, therapy, support from her mom, and an unlikely source of hope: herself, Lizzie finds that she is able to adjust to life and realizes that sometimes it's okay to ask for help in order to get back on your feet.

All in all, Prozac Nation's portrayal of mental illness coupled with Lizzie's passion for journalism were really what enthralled me in this movie. I found it absolutely raw how this movie did not romanticize mental illness; it didn't make it seem that the only way for Lizzie to thrive artistically was if she was suffering from a mental illness. The film painted mental illness as something that helped Lizzie become a prolific writer, but at the same time it showed the effects of depression and why it should not be romanticized, something that contrasts current themes in the media that mental illness should be romanticized to create art.

Follow Lizzie Wurtzel, the author of Prozac Nation (her autobiography), here on Twitter!

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