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Adderall Diaries, The
Ugh, another pretentious, uninteresting drama about terrible Millennials. Based on the novel by Stephen Elliott, The Adderall Diaries thinks itself terribly important, as if it is making some kind of statement about relationships and self-discovery. Burgeoning writer Stephen Elliott has an advance and a chip on his shoulder after a rough childhood with abusive father Neil (Ed Harris). Stephen's stories of abuse may have been exaggerated to sell books, but, either way, I kind of sympathized with Neil. James Franco's Stephen is a whiny, annoying prick who treats his friends and family like shit and does not mind dragging anyone's name through the mud to achieve fame. The secondary characters here are pointless and barely defined, simply existing for Stephen to fuck over. Harris provides a strong performance in a terrible movie that I wanted to turn off in the opening act.
A largely fictional memoir about his childhood catapults Stephen to a big-name publisher, but Neil shows up at a lecture to refute Stephen's recollections of several key events in the book. Neil, who is at minimum a violent alcoholic, recalls Stephen as the punk, paint-inhaling teenager he really was. An assault was really Neil trying to keep Stephen from slitting his wrists. A rough interrogation happened only after Stephen trashes a house Neil is trying to sell. Rose-colored glasses abound in the aforementioned memoir. Both Neil and Stephen are terrible people who spent 30-some years being terrible to one another. Their reunion is neither pleasant nor compelling. Sometimes, a relationship should just die. When daddy hurts his feelings, Stephen finds Lana Edmond (Amber Heard), and the two forge a dysfunctional relationship for a while. Stephen gets writer's block and takes an interest in accused murderer Hans Reiser (Christian Slater) in this all-over-the-place mess.
If this movie has a theme it is that everyone is a liar and a piece of shit. Hans really did kill his wife, Stephen is a drug addict, Neil is a terrible father, etc. Movies about terrible people can be compelling, but The Adderall Diaries is as stupid as its name. Somehow, Stephen's even-worse childhood friend (Jim Parrack) becomes a moderately normal family man, which infuriates Stephen. He promptly sabotages that friendship with guilt and accusations, leaving only lines of Adderall to keep him company. The side story about Reiser feels like such a bizarre anomaly in this movie that I wonder if it was at all effective at tying themes together in the book. Stephen and Lana's "detective work" to discover Stephen's true past is also hilariously ineffective. Apparently, typing someone's name into Google will instantly produce scores of sealed, confidential documents.
I am OK with The Adderall Diaries being a bad movie. There are a lot of those. But, it thinks it is intelligent and relevant when it is neither. Franco is not a bad actor, but he too easily becomes his loathsome character. The film so poorly handles issues of drug dependency, abuse, neglect and redemption as to become borderline offensive. Director Pamela Romanowsky made a student film with Franco at New York University, and presumably got this gig after that experience. She has a keen eye for framing and focus, but should seek out better material. I am all out of juice for this one. There is a reason The Adderall Diaries was dumped in a handful of theaters to be forgotten. Just move along.
The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is good and without major flaws. The colors are drab and unappealing, like the characters, but are nicely saturated. Fine-object detail is abundant, texture is apparent on clothes, interiors and outdoor landmarks, and I did not spot any major digital hiccups in the digitally sourced image.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix supports the dialogue-heavy film with appropriate balance and clarity. Some ambient effects waft into the surrounds, and the music is layered appropriately. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. An insert offers a code to redeem an UltraViolet HD digital copy. Extras include Deleted Scenes (9:47/HD), The Adderall Diaries: A Director's Perspective (11:49/HD), and an Audio Commentary with Director Pamela Romanowsky.
This movie really scratched an itch for me, and I do not mean that as a complement. Dour and self-important, The Adderall Diaries is style over substance and packed with awful people. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.