(director: Erik Skjoldbjaerg; screenwriter: from the book by Elizabeth Wurtzel/Frank Deasy/Larry Gross; cinematographer: Erling Thurmann-Andersen; editor: James Lyons; music: Nathan Larson; cast: Christina Ricci (Elizabeth), Anne Heche (Dr. Sterling), Michelle Williams (Ruby), Jason Biggs (Rafe), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Noah), Jessica Lange (Mrs. Wurtzel), Nicholas Campbell (Mr. Wurtzel); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Christina Ricci/Brad Weston/Galt Niederhoffer/R. Paul Miller; Miramax; 2001)
“It should be no surprise that a flick about depressives turns into a depressing film.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Swedish filmmaker Erik Skjoldbjaerg (“Insomnia”) bases his true story drama on the best-seller autobiography by Elizabeth Wurtzel, with the screenplay by Frank Deasy and Larry Gross. It should be no surprise that a flick about depressives turns into a depressing film. What might surprise some is in how turgid, tedious and slow moving it is, making it difficult to become involved with the troubled main character experiencing all sorts of personal problems due to her parents’ divorce, drugs, sex, pressures to succeed and various other problems young people face in today’s modern world. The film chronicles Elizabeth Wurtzel’s (Christina Ricci) battles with depression while attending Harvard in her freshman year.If one is looking for positives, then despite the film’s failures to be involving Christina Ricci nevertheless gives a summa cum laude performance whereby she commits herself totally to getting inside her character’s head.
The action is set in the mid-’80s and depicts brilliant scholarship student Elizabeth’s aspirations to be a writer and her changing relationships with Harvard roommate Ruby (Michelle Williams) and her futile love affair with her nice-guy boyfriend Rafe (Jason Biggs), and her emotionally troubling verbally abusive relationships with her overprotective chain-smoking mom (Jessica Lange) and, as a child, with her absent father (Nicholas Campbell). The bad experience with dad causes her to distrust men and leaves her with a lasting fear of men walking out on her, and a dire need to get psychological help from therapist Dr. Sterling (Anne Heche). The troubled 19-year-old runs up a medical tab that puts mom in debt. Still unable to get the help needed, the whiny self-centered privileged kid in trouble becomes depressive, a chronic substance-abuser, reckless in sex and suicidal. She’s such an obnoxious character, that even those closest to her find her almost impossible to put up with. If they can’t stand her, why should I?
The film seriously questions if taking antidepressant pills is the answer to this generation’s quest of looking for happiness. By the time it gets to that point, I lost all interest in the unappealing Elizabeth and the seemingly hollow point it makes about modern-day treatment. But if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation to the book, Skjoldbjaerg passes the test (despite some gimmicky shots of drug freak-outs, fast motion photography and the like).
Even Elizabeth Wurtzel herself asked that the film not be released because it was ‘horrible.’ After a poor reception at the Toronto Film Festival, the film was shelved and not released to cable until a few years later.
REVIEWED ON 5/29/2010 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/