The Adderall Diaries
Starring James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard, Jim Parrack, Christian Slater, Wilmer Valderrama, Cynthia Nixon
Sometimes certain director’s films can all feel the same, its usually pretty easy to pick out a Spielberg, Fincher or Allen film, even if you don’t see the credits. James Franco (The Interview, True Story) is about the only actor who has the same effect regardless of the character he is playing, the director of the film or the genre. The lines have become so blurred between the artist and the character for him each role feels like an extension of the previous and another idea he got from the latest shrink visit. This is technically writer/director Pamela Romanowsky’s second feature, but it’s the first with a beginning to end narrative. It’s also the second time she has worked with Franco, who to no surprise, serves as the producer.
Continually haunted by the abuse and torment of his childhood, author Stephen Elliott (Franco) has made a living off his grief. His present life is one big flashback of the turbulent life he had with his father (Harris) and agonizing over the death of his mother. While promoting his latest novel at a book reading, Stephen is surprised when his ailing father, whom he hasn’t seen in seven years, shows up to reveal he isn’t dead as his son proclaims. This sends future deals, publishers and his editor (Nixon) into a feeding frenzy jeopardizing her client’s future in the business. As he endures the scrutiny of his father’s reappearance and faces writers block, Stephen takes an interest in a high profile murder trial that ironically helps him see more clearly.
There is no big pay off or dynamic conclusion the film ends much the way it began.
“We are all victims of our fathers”, Stephen writes. “What happens to us makes us who we are”. The Adderall Diaries fumbles and stumbles around a script that desperately tries to tie many subplots together; childhood friends, a new girlfriend, and a father on trial for murder. It’s in no hurry to make the connections and I am not saying if even achieves that goal. Franco plays the type of character we have come to expect, depressed, scruffy, hostile and cathartic. Romanowsky keeps the camera focused on the actor’s every moment, blink and mannerism which the audience has memorized by now since Franco releases a new film every month.
The enormous cast really aids the slow moving film with life. Harris (Run All Night, Snowpiercer) as usual is electric every moment he is on screen. His high energy as an actor balances the slowed movement of Franco. Heard (The Danish Girl) and Nixon (James White) continue to play past character stereotypes. The ultimate theme of the film finally begins to emerge when Stephen’s recollection of childhood is questioned. When a parent and a child begin to discuss the past, their memories of certain events always vary and that concept seems to be the origin of the script. There is no big pay off or dynamic conclusion the film ends much the way it began. It's a dark story about bad children and worse fathers and offers nothing in the way of great performances or riveting storytelling to keep the viewer interested.
It’s the viewer who might need some Adderall to make it through the film.