Movie Review: ‘The Adderall Diaries’

Review by Lauryn Angel

Stephen Elliot (James Franco) seems to be in a great place – he has turned his troubled past into literary success, landed a lucrative publishing deal, and found a new love interest. At the height of his success, however, Stephen’s father, Neil (Ed Harris), re-enters his life and complicates the narrative he has created for himself. Stephen also develops writer’s block and channels his creative energies toward a high-profile murder case, with the intent of following in the footsteps of Truman Capote – he tells his editor (Cynthia Nixon), “It’ll be my In Cold Blood.” Stephen’s tailspin is exacerbated by his drug use and inability to accept any responsibility for his own actions, hiding instead behind the image he has created for himself as damaged, a victim of his father’s abuse.

Director Pamela Romonkowsky reveals Stephen’s past through the use of home videos and flashbacks that function more to set a tone than for exposition. The rest of the plot seems to function the same way. We see Stephen use drugs often, but if not for the film’s title, we wouldn’t know exactly what he’s taking. And the negative consequences of his addiction are more implied than directly stated. We watch Stephen take drugs and visit prostitutes, screw up his relationships with his girlfriend Lana (Amber Heard) and best friend Roger (Jim Parrack) – he’s clearly on a downward spiral, but it’s not clear why we should care until the last forty minutes, when he begins to take responsibility for his actions.

James Franco isn’t doing anything we haven’t seen before, but he does seem well-cast as Stephen Elliot. Ed Harris is great as Elliot’s father, and the supporting cast does what they can with what they’re given, but for the most part, the other characters are just there for Stephen to react to, not to really move the plot forward. Even Christian Slater’s performance feels wasted on this film.

Stephen’s third-act revelations aren’t really enough to justify watching this rather muddled film.

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