Hot Take: Apparently, many roads lead to nowhere.
At this point, I’m going to have to say it’s me. I continue to watch dramas starring James Franco with optimism only to be let down time and again. Last year, it was True Story. Earlier this year, Yosemite left me unimpressed. Now, it’s The Adderall Diaries.
Based on Stephen Elliott’s novel, Franco plays Elliott. He suffers from writer’s block, constructs the memories of his past to make himself a victim, has unusual sexual appetites, does a fair amount of drugs and is fascinated with a high-profile murder case. Things begin to fall apart at a reading for one of his books when his father (Ed Harris), who he has written as dead in his best-selling novel, shows up. Elliott then begins a downward spiral that doesn’t end until most of the people in his life give up on him. This is all going on while Elliott spends his days in the courtroom watching a man (Christian Slater) accused of murdering his wife and his nights with his microwave girlfriend (Amber Heard) — she initially rejects then the two start dating five seconds later because he has a motorcycle — or a random S&M dominatrix which one can only assume is a hooker since each time it is a different woman. As he pieces together his past, Elliott realizes his recollections might not actually be reality. This is all going on while As the story breaks off into one with multiple sub-plots, each arc then hurriedly gets revisited and wrapped up with no real resolution.
I guess The Adderall Diaries is a “coming of age” film. However, reading author Stephen Elliott’s account (not fictional Stephen Elliott who is essentially a completely different person) is befuddling when it comes to the “artistic” choices the film makes. Elliott’s novel and the movie by the same name are very different. The novel is turned and twisted liked a pretzel and coated with a thick lacquer of Hollywood before it is tossed in the oven and overheated. The worst part is in the cinematic telling of the story, you’re unlikely to care much at all about any character in the film as there’s zero emotional investment into anyone, even Elliott. The entire film distributes equal weight to each of it’s plotlines which requires the tale to revisit every single plot point and give the audience an answer in case they connected somewhere. Unfortunately, this adds to the frustration, apathy and fecklessness of it all.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Ed Harris
Harris plays Stephen’s dad and delivers the strongest performance in the film. When he’s on the screen it feels like he’s stopping by from a different, better movie that The Adderall Diaries just happened to trip over on it’s way one of it’s other storylines.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- James Franco
Too smug to like. Too much of his past dramatic roles to stand out as a fresh performance.
- Style Over Substance
The film chooses clichés over good storytelling. I didn’t read the novel but to read the choices the film makes to divert from the source material (expensive and messy New York apartment, cool motorcycle, tension with the agent, equally troubled girlfriend) was especially perplexing considering those were all of the things that made the film hard to swallow.
- The Big Lie
The biggest plot point of the film is also the most troubling as the story progresses. When the world finds out that Elliott lied in his novel about his father being dead, his life hits a bump. In real life, that’s career suicide but in The Adderall Diaries, his writing life doesn’t end. It’s impossible to buy someone coming back from that and the movie plays it off as it being as simple as leaking something to the press and writing another novel.