James Cole Clay // Film Critic
THE ADDERALL DIARIES | Rated R | 87 minutes
Director: Pamela Romanowsky
Cast: James Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris
James Franco is an interesting guy who has never shied away from testing the limits of his artistry. From poems to painting and onto directing – you name it – he’s most likely dabbled in the field. He’s more than just a goofus holding a joint– he’s a true risk taker that knows how to put all of his degrees to use through art.
So, it makes sense why he acquired the rights to the Stephen Elliott’s memoir THE ADDERALL DIARIES and turned it into the a film with his former New York University MFA collaborator Pamela Romanowsky as director.
In this film, Franco plays the aforementioned Elliot as a smug and successful writer who falls under the spell of writer’s block after he got a bit lucky with a hackneyed autobiography about how his father Neil’s (Ed Harris) drug abuse.
It’s a pretty typical setup for a film about a narcissistic writer with a case of daddy issues. Franco plays the pretty bland Elliot with a pretentious entitlement. Franco tends works well in this arena, and he does bring at least a few eye-catching flashes of acting, but we aren’t cracking the mystery that is James Franco with this film.
He’s supposed to be writing his next novel, yet becomes obsessed with the true crime case of Hans Reiser (Christian Slater), who was actually convicted of murdering his wife. So much so that he abandons his next book to focus on the case. While loafing around the courthouse, he slyly meets Lana Edmond (Amber Heard) in a weirdly appealing meet-cute. One minute she’s telling him, “I’m a reporter for The New York Times,” while the next they are dabbling in asphyxiation at the behest of Elliot.
Budgets are hard to come by in this day of micro-filmmaking and things have to move quickly. However, the film is sleepwalking through all of its plot points without urgency or any visual gusto.
There’s no descent into madness as the vibrant title may suggest. The final conclusion is a purge of emotions that come from a poignant yet undeveloped thought about victim/villain roles within abusive relationships. At one moment during the climax, Elliot compares his plight to Truman Capote and Norman Mailer. It’s truly hard to tell if this is satire or in earnest.
THE ADDERALL DIARIES has bankable talent surrounding the film – including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment from Wilmer Valderrama – but the flashes of ideas are too dim to amount to anything notable.
THE ADDERALL DIARIES is available DirecTV, VOD and in select theaters.