Synopsis: Writer and Adderall enthusiast Stephen Elliott reaches a low point when his estranged father resurfaces, claiming that Stephen has fabricated much of the dark childhood that that fuels his writing. Adrift in the precarious gray area of memory, Stephen is led by three sources of inspiration: a new romance, the best friend who shares his history, and a murder trial that reminds him more than a little of his own story.
Release Date: April 15, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Romance
In last year’s True Story, James Franco played an accused murderer who was the subject of an investigation by a writer (played by Jonah Hill). Now, in The Adderall Diaries, the tables are turned; it’s Franco’s turn to portray the writer who is obsessed with a man who is standing trial for murder.
The Adderall Diaries stars Franco as Stephen Elliott, an Adderall-popping author who writes books about coming to terms with his abusive childhood at the hands of his dead father. During one of his bookstore appearances, Stephen’s father, Neil (Ed Harris from The Abyss) shows up, alive of course, completely proving that Stephen’s books are made up of nothing but lies. While his editor, Jen (James White‘s Cynthia Nixon), tries to salvage his book deals and save his career, Stephen becomes intrigued by the case of a man named Hans Reiser (Christian Slater from the Nymphomaniac movies) who is accused of murdering his wife. Stephen scraps the plans for his next book and decides that he wants to write about Reiser, even going so far as to secure an interview with the suspect. At one of the hearings, he meets a Los Angeles Times reporter named Lana Edmond (Amber Heard from The Ward and The Rum Diary) who agrees to help him with his research, but he soon learns that his past may be closely linked to the Reiser case. The problem is that he doesn’t remember his past correctly.
Based on the memoirs of the real Stephen Elliott (About Cherry), The Adderall Diaries was written and directed by Pamela Romanowsky (The Color of Time). The film itself has a lot of captivating moments, some that might even be described as chilling, but as a whole, it lacks focus and cohesion. It’s a compelling story, but the execution doesn’t do it justice. And the ending is far too convenient, a cop-out that seems as if Romanowsky just got tired of writing, threw up her hands and basically said, “yep, let’s end it.”
The theme of The Adderall Diaries, which is pummeled into the viewer time and time again throughout the movie, is how memories are unreliable and people self-edit their own perceptions of their past. It is obvious to the audience that certain aspects of Hans’ trial strike a nerve with Stephen, but it is never made clear exactly why, because it’s never revealed which flashbacks really happened and which have been manufactured by Stephen’s neglected and abused psyche. The point of the movie is that the human mind is malleable, but the movie’s methods are too fluid to actually prove that point effectively.
The Adderall Diaries is not all bad, though. There are a handful of scenes that boast slick editing and powerful direction (one inspiring scene has everyone in the courtroom disappear during a portion of Hans’ testimony so that it is just him talking to Stephen – very moving), and the performances are every bit as good as one would expect from a cast that includes James Franco, Christian Slater, Ed Harris, and Amber Heard. The Adderall Diaries feels a little unfinished, though, which leads to it being a very unsatisfying movie. Or maybe that’s just my unreliable memory of it.
The score for The Adderall Diaries, composed by Michael Andrews (who has seemingly done it all, from Bridesmaids to Donnie Darko), is very ethereal and ambient, almost new-age sounding. The soundtrack’s production sounds like it could be all synthesizers, but the type of synthesizers that use samples of actual instruments and objects instead of just algorithmic mimics of them, if that makes any sense. The score for the film is not electronic, but it’s not traditionally acoustic, either. It’s full of swirling keyboards and textural percussion, but also has ghostly chimes and haunting strings. It’s not particularly memorable, but that also means that it’s not distracting. In all actuality, the soundtrack is perfect film music, and it’s probably one of The Adderall Diaries‘ strongest elements.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Pamela Romanowsky
- Producer(s): James FrancoVince JolivetteJoseph McKelheerJames Reach
- Screenwriter(s): Pamela Romanowsky
- Story: Stephen Elliott
- Cast: James Franco (Stephen Elliott)Christian Slater (Hans Reiser)Amber Heard (Lana Edmond) Ed Harris (Neil Wlliott)Cynthia Nixon (Jen Davis)Jim Parrack (Roger)Timothée Chalamet (Teenage Stephen)Danny Flaherty (Teenage Roger)
- Editor(s): Marc Vives
- Cinematographer: Bruce Thierry Cheung
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Brenda Abbandandolo
- Casting Director(s): Kerry BardenPaul Schnee
- Music Score: Michael Andrews
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA