You’ll need to take Adderall just to stay focused in this poorly constructed dark drama/thriller.
Stephen Elliott is many things, an author, a recovering addict, a kink, and a self-loathing yet highly selfish liar. Having struggled through his adolescence after the death of his mother, Stephen’s father does his best to parent him but only seems to make matters worse. Stephen grows up to be an acclaimed author just scoring a new book deal and performing a reading at an event to promote his most recent novel about his horrid and neglected upbringing. Just before the book reading Stephen becomes interested in a local murder trial of a man and father who is claimed to have murdered his wife. While at the first court hearing a young reporter, Lana, catches his eye. While at the book reading, out of the blue Stephen’s father, Neil Elliott, surprises everyone including Stephen.
His father’s outburst causes a backlash of controversy due to Neil confronting Stephen about the outright lies in his book. Which results in Stephen losing his books deals left and right. In a last ditch attempt to save his career, Stephen tries to write a true crime novel about the local trial taking place. He quickly falls down a slippery slope of lust, drugs, and confrontation nearly losing everything around him to undo what his father and he has done to himself.
The Adderall Diaries, might be a great read in its original novel form, but as a film it is terribly portrayed. First the story itself is a confusing mess and difficult to follow with plenty of flashbacks to tell one story from multiple points of view. Not having read the book I can only assume that sections of chapters are broken up to show how one event was remembered by two separate parties, when in the film the viewer is watching the film from Stephen Elliott’s point of view (played by James Franco). However, there are times when other character’s retell their accounts of the same memory for example, Stephen’s best friend from childhood, Roger (played by Jim Parrack), and even Neil Elliott (played by Ed Harris) and the flashbacks show the same event two other ways but the view is still through Stephen’s eyes. Causing the story in the present to become a little muddied and almost schizophrenic. You don’t know who is telling the truth and/or if Stephen is lying about his entire childhood just to sell books and justify his delinquent teenage behavior.
Not only do the confusing and plentiful flashbacks bring a weird sensation to the film, but the acting from James Franco is beyond awkward. Many times throughout the film Franco has a huge cheesy grin plastered to his face during obvious uneasy moments that any normal person would be pensive or even a little reserved but Franco’s constant high and dopey appearance make the mood feel off and unsettling. In addition to Franco’s under acting, his immediate and unnecessary love interest Lana Edmond (played by Amber Heard) overacts at every chance she gets. Ed Harris does a good job at portraying a broken father trying to make amends while still struggling with his underlying anger issues, but then again we’ve seen the same character from Ed Harris many times.
This film was just a confusing mess and frustrating to watch to in general. It could have been due to heavy editing because there were plenty of instances where I had to really focus and think back to if I had missed something. Although the film could have been edited drastically there was clearly too much unnecessary sex scenes that added nothing to the story. On top of the inconsistencies there were a few B-stories that were addressed and then fizzled out only to be thrown back in at the last scene when Stephen finally has his epiphany moment and tries to reel in all the lines and wrap it up already. Which for an 87-minute film it seems much longer than it needed to be as a whole. Beyond the story, acting and editing, the film was specified as a crime thriller but was neither thrilling or really about the B-story crime. The film was about Stephen Elliott and his addictive and faulty personality and a total bummer to watch.
The Adderall Diaries is rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexuality, and some aberrant and disturbing content and has an 87-minute runtime.