I don’t know Elizabeth Wurtzel, but if I ever happen to cross her path at a book signing, expo, or other public event, I am fully prepared to remove at least three vital organs, set them aflame, and dance an exotic tango while she blubbers and gurgles her way to an excruciating demise. Based on this filmed disaster of her best-selling book, she is one of the least interesting human beings who have ever lived, and just as surely one who has abused beyond all imagining a literary genre that has done little more than elevate deservedly anonymous creeps to dizzying heights of fame.
Back in 2001 when this crapfest was filmed, it might have seemed like a striking commentary on the drug-fueled 90s, but after sitting (or should I say rotting) on the shelf for several years, it has been reduced to a dated curiosity, which is a criticism that says nothing of its incompetence, pointlessness, or axe-wielding editing style. Whole segments of this mess seem to be missing — or perhaps they were never filmed — and as the emotions of a scene build, they are suddenly cut off in favor of supremely awkward transitions. Nothing literally follows nothing, and given the overall sloppiness, it must be assumed that Wurtzel was given final cut; not because she’s a power player, but rather because no one wanted to take ultimate responsibility.
I’d immediately say that this is the worst film of 2005 so far, but is that fair given that it was completed over four years ago? To be consistent, I’d let it take the honors for the current year, as well as last year and all the years in-between. This is a staggering achievement; a film so bad that it deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Mommie Dearest and Battlefield Earth, which is appropriate in at least one instance in that Jessica Lange (as Elizabeth’s mother) gives a performance that matches Faye Dunaway’s step for ham-fisted step. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, but Lange has a telephone scene with her ex-husband that is so over the top that I giggled for at least five full minutes. She screams, cries, curses, and at last, throws the phone with the velocity of a Randy Johnson fastball. She does everything but turn into a werewolf. I’d say the two-time Oscar winner has recovered, but have you seen her in anything since? The dailies alone had to crush the living fuck out of her spirit. But that’s a supporting character; this is ultimately Elizabeth’s story, and as played by a pre-starvation Christina Ricci, she’s a monster unlike any other we’ve ever seen.
In order to justify an autobiography, one should accomplish more than treating people like shit, but apparently that’s the standard in our obnoxious tell-all age. Wurtzel is allegedly a writer, but what we hear in voiceover wouldn’t pass muster in a sixth grade essay contest, let alone win awards (as she does, from Rolling Stone, of all magazines. She writes about music with a tortured, sophomoric flair; so top-heavy with bloated metaphor and sexual allusion that any 13-year-old girl would likely recognize it as her latest diary entry. Wurtzel isn’t really reviewing anything, of course; she’s speaking from her tortured soul, which has reached it current state because her father left and hasn’t communicated much since.
That’s it then, daddy issues? Oh my yes, dear Elizabeth, we surely need another accounting of a loveless family life, for the previous 55.8 million tomes on the subject hadn’t penetrated the real story. And her father isn’t really that bad as far as fathers go. Sure, he’s a slob and quite irresponsible, but isn’t that what fathers do? Pretty much to a man the bastards fail to pay the bills, help lose the house, and take off with some younger chick to spite the ex-wife who’s grown fatter and duller. This is enough to inspire drug use, depression, and suicidal despair? Grow up, girlie.
And what about depression? Surely it’s the most self-indulgent affliction; and lest you think I lack empathy, remember that I purposely avoided learning the meaning of the word so as not to be bound by its strictures. All evidence to the contrary, I refuse to accept the chemical foundations of the illness, and instead believe that it is little more than deliberately delayed maturity coupled with the worst elements of navel gazing. And with Wurtzel as a shining example of that belief, I defy anyone to contradict my findings.
But with a handy explanation for everything, Elizabeth is allowed to run rampant, avoid responsibility, and force the world to conform to her twisted interpretation. Ricci is, somehow, perfect for the role, because she has the unique ability to cry, thrash, and bellow obscenities on cue, although she defers to Lange when necessary. Fortunately, we get a shot of Ricci’s bare tits before we go too far and are no longer able to pay attention. After that, feel free to roam the lobby or take an ass-splitting dump. You won’t miss anything that you couldn’t see at your average high school.
Jason Biggs even appears as Elizabeth’s true love, who of course she drives away with irrational jealousy, paranoia, and all-around bitchiness. But darn it all, she has attachment issues and fears of rejection! A fucking movie for that? She’s so far gone with her madness that she visits a therapist played by Anne Heche, which is kind of like visiting a suicide prevention clinic chaired by Kurt Cobain. Heche stares lovingly at Ricci, but no, they don’t drop their guards and start making out.
Instead, Heche rambles so unconvincingly that it’s clear that any clients she has are strictly pro-bono. One particularly worthless session leads to a suicide attempt, which is to be expected from anyone being told they’re less sane than Anne Heche. Of course, the turn to psychiatry leads to more scenes with Mad Woman Lange, as she rants against her ex for failing to pay his share of the medical bills. Commence giggling (again).
Let’s see, what else do we have here……Oh, Jason Biggs has a wildly retarded sister he’s ashamed of; Michelle Williams is the lone voice of reason; Lou Reed turns up in a creepy cameo for no apparent reason other than to make us violently ill; and somehow, Lange’s hilarious mugging is tied to the Challenger explosion. And did I mention that Elizabeth’s dad looks like fucking Disco Stu? And by the end, the film tries desperately to tie what has come before with a grand pronouncement about our societal addiction to addictions.
But if Prozac (or any drug) turns a raving cunt into a sweet-natured lamb, shouldn’t we advocate its use? Wild mood swings and anti-social rage might have defined Elizabeth’s “real” personality, but what good is that to our culture? I’d rather have her doped up, bound, and warehoused in some loony bin than wandering the streets asking that we read her tripe. Feeling sorry for one’s self might be a national sport, but must Hollywood make a film about every last example?