Originally posted on The Iris (June 18, 2016)
The Adderall Diaries comes across as an incomplete and incoherent collision of storylines. While an interesting concept to discover the faults in our memory and recollections, the unfocused execution of the film ultimately leaves you confused and bewildered more than it does captivated.
Based on the true crime memoir of the same name, The Adderall Diaries follows Stephen Elliott, a writer hindered by writer’s block, substance abuse and dark memories that resurface with the unfolding of a murder trial that reminds him of his own story. Stephen reaches his lowest point when his father reappears in his life, only to claim that the childhood drama that fuels his writing is very much fabricated, spiralling him into a mess of memories and self-destruction.
Writer and director Pamela Romanowsky takes on this huge story with little success. Despite what the title suggests, little weight is given to Stephen’s drug addition. In fact, little weight is given to all aspects of the plot, and Romanowsky’s plan to explore a series of storylines turns into a film with little research or investment.
As the film unfolds, it becomes clearer that Romanowsky isn’t sure what she wants this film to be. Despite following a text constructed with dark and heavy content, the filmmaking is laced with forced quirkiness, from the handwritten title cards and interspersed flashbacks, to the clichéd interactions between characters, particularly when it comes to resolving problems.
The idea subconsciously sculpting your own memories is an intriguing concept, one that ultimately had so much potential. While James Franco gave an impressive performance as a self-destructive and harrowing writer (with the typical smugness that Franco often emits), the interactions with his new girlfriend, editor, or best friend who shares his history are often tiresome to watch with little chemistry.
The father-son connection was perhaps the most gripping aspect of this film. Ed Harris, who plays Stephen’s father, really lifts the quality of the acting, encapsulating conflicting emotions of a father’s regret, dominance, and pride with the utmost precision. Their scenes together brought tension and intensity – perhaps the most emotionally invested audiences are likely to be throughout its hour and a half duration.
Ultimately, ’ cast deliver some great scenes, but there is no denying the film falls short. In the end, tirelessly waiting for the scattered subplots to come together as a cohesive whole just isn’t worth the wait.
Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Adderall Diaries is on DVD now.