Writer/director Pamela Romanowsky‘s adaptation of “The Adderall Diaries” based on Stephen Elliott’s memoir has so many great ideas. It’s a blend of different genres that calls back to many different films from the past however, it’s unfocused execution and narrative ultimately leaves you bewildered rather than intrigued.
Starring Academy Award nominee James Franco as Stephen Elliott, an author whose world is turned upside down when his estranged father (played by Ed Harris) accuses him in public of fabricating his book which tells the story of his life. With a new relationship, drug relapse, and focusing on a very public murder trial, will Stephen be able to survive everything that life is throwing at him?
As previously mentioned, there’s A LOT going on in the story. We’re getting elements of “Shattered Glass” then “Blue Valentine” then “The Basketball Diaries.” Romanowsky isn’t confident about what she wants her film to be. Does she want it to be a film about family relationships or dissection of the mind of an addict? Does she want to explore the ramifications of sex through violence or is she trying to make a statement about the perception of our lives within ourselves? She’s saying so many things that it all ends up on blurred lines and in a haze. I will say that her abilities is a filmmaker is nothing to scoff at. She creates genuine moments and settles into her better written scenes with courage and ferocity. I’d still be very intrigued to see her next venture.
James Franco‘s resume with independent cinema has left much to be desired. His performances are often self-indulgent or misguided by his own direction or any other filmmaker he’s working with. His turn in “The Adderall Diaries” is one of his more impressive works that he’s constructed as of late. Though his motivations and actions aren’t always made abundantly clear, Franco sheds some of his barriers to allow some connection with his audience.
You can’t get much better than Ed Harris in terms of an actor that shines in just about anything he does, no matter how the film he inhabits turns out. As Neil, Stephen’s father, Harris elevates the thin material and focuses on the emotion of a father’s regret with near precision. I’m still anxiously awaiting his Oscar-winning role. This doesn’t quite make the cut.
Other aspects of the film include the beautiful Amber Heard, the multi-talented Cynthia Nixon, the oddly involved Christian Slater, and the scene-stealing abilities of Jim Parrack (Hoyt from “True Blood”).
Overall “The Adderall Diaries” is a misguided attempt by a director who has a keen eye for some things but lacks in others. Romanowsky’s guidance on her actors are some of the film’s biggest highlights but ultimately just falls short in too many spots. The opening sequence was quite good and there was a scene in which I nearly cried. Some may find some qualities to take home with them, others will simply leave it at the door.