The Strange Case of PROZAC NATION

January 19, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

Sometimes, I just don't understand movie distributors. And none is more difficult to fathom than Miramax, which occasionally buys the rights to a film, then allows it to rot away on a shelf. For example, take Hero. In order for that film to see the light of day in North America, it required an act of God (masquerading as Quentin Tarantino). Once there, of course, it was universally praised and earned a pretty penny. This isn't the first (or only) film that Miramax has squirreled away. Consider the strange case of Prozac Nation.

I am one of the select few who have seen it on a North American screen. The weekend before September 11, 2001, the movie had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's acerbic autobiography, Prozac Nation was an obsession for actress Christina Ricci, who devoted much time and sweat bringing it to fruition. At Toronto that fateful year, Miramax rewarded Ricci's efforts with a North American distribution deal... then buried the movie so deeply that no one on this side of the globe has been able to find it.

From my perspective, it's a decent effort, with its fair share of good and bad points. It's certainly not worthy of the hand it has been dealt. The film has fared better overseas, where it is currently available on DVD. But, in the United States and Canada, for all but those few who own non-region-specific DVD players, it cannot be seen. I can understand Miramax not wanting to release it theatrically. If their research indicated there isn't much of a market, why bother striking prints? But why not release it on DVD? It's almost as if the company doesn't want the film seen.

It must be a sore spot for Christina Ricci. Her baby has been orphaned, and there's nothing she can do about it. And, for those who care about such things, the movie has the distinction of featuring Ricci's first (and, to date, only) nude scene. For those who thought she put a lot on display in Woody Allen's Anything Else, you ain't seen nothing yet. And you may never see it. (Actually, it's pretty easy to find bootleg copies of the Ricci nude scene on-line. In fact, that's the only part of Prozac Nation that is widely available.)

I'm not about to start a "Release Prozac Nation" campaign, but it strikes me as odd that, considering the number of unwatchable films appearing in multiplexes and obtaining subsequent video releases, Miramax couldn't find some way to get this movie out the door. And it also makes me wonder what else they're hiding in those dingy, dusty vaults. Perhaps, when the imminent divorce between Disney and the Weinsteins goes through, something will happen. Until then, fans of Wurtzel's book will have to continue to wonder if there really is a movie version, or if it's all an urban legend.

Pass the Remote Control

I am known as someone who does not watch a lot of television. However, since getting HDTV into my house, I have broken down a little and started watching a few more shows. Currently, I'm at four hours of nighttime TV per week (although that varies, since I don't watch repeats). Two of the four programs are new this year, and one is about to end. And I occasionally watch other things, like baseball and football. I flirted with "Jeopardy" for a while, but lost interest after Ken Jennings met his end.

I have watched "N.Y.P.D. Blue" almost since the beginning, although my viewership for the first seven years was sporadic. I beccame a regular around the time the cast was undergoing an upheaval (enter Charlotte Ross, Esai Morales, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Henry Simmons, and Jacqueline Obradors; exit James McDaniel, Kim Delaney, Andrea Thompson, and Rick Schroeder). During the last few years even more than earlier in its run, the reason to watch the show has been Dennis Franz. This is especially the case as "N.Y.P.D. Blue" rides off into the twilight - a groundbreaking show that still occasionally manages to surprise. (Not only was it the first network TV program to feature nudity, but its use of "bullshit" broke down a wall or two.)

I became caught in the web of "24" mid-way between seasons #1 and #2, after I gobbled down the DVD set of the first 24 installments over a long weekend. Since then, I have been a devoted viewer. "24" is like a solid action-packed thriller, filled with cliffhangers and suspense. It doesn't bother me that most of the plots are patently ridiculous. The show's good enough that suspension of disbelief isn't a problem. And, for the fourth season, there are two positives: (1) no annoying three-week breaks in December, January, and March, and (2) no need to endure the end of "American Idol" so as not to miss the beginning of "24" (the program has moved from its post-"Idol" Tuesday night spot to Mondays).

I started watching "Lost" because I was being lazy and the previews intrigued me. It took me about eight or nine episodes to become hooked. Despite the radically different storylines, there are a lot of similarities between "24 and "Lost." The most obvious is that both are better written and executed than typical TV fare. There are plenty of mysteries in "Lost," but I'm not in a hurry to find out the answers. As "Twin Peaks" proved, things are often more intriguing when they're unknown. (That show imploded spectacularly once we learned who killed Laura Palmer.)

Finally, there's "Battlestar Galactica." Unlike the die-hards, I am not offended by the wholesale changes from the original (although I would have liked it if they had retained the theme song). I liked the show when it first aired, but I was a pre-teen at the time, and most pre-teens are not known for their taste. The new BG is more adult-oriented and, at least based on the first two episodes, may have a lot to offer to those of us who have been starving for good TV sci-fi since the end of "Babylon 5." I thought the BG mini-series was too slow; the series seems to have a better pace.