Adapted from Stephen Elliott's memoir of the same name, The Adderall Diaries is the second of three collaborations between writer/director Pamela Romanowsky and lead actor James Franco. While I have yet to read the source material, the film is a frenetic and often depressing glimpse of an author whose life appears in permanent stasis due to years of neglect and abuse, both at the hands of others as well as himself. 

The notion of selective and edited memory is the basis of conflict, while addiction is the symptom through how we must understand it. Yes, Franco's Elliott is frequently mixing Adderall and Klonopin, but why? Switching between seemingly fun romps on the town to near coma inducing binges, Elliott's addiction mirrors that of the film's narrative. Such as, quiet moments between Elliott and New York Times reporter Lana Edmond (Amber Heard) quickly shift to triggering events interspersed with stylized flashbacks. The film is a never ending series of drastic ups and downs, which while seen as a reflection of our protagonist's decaying memory, makes for a hard viewing. That isn't to say a story and/or subject matter such as this should be handled delicately or subdued for the viewers' enjoyment, but the stylistic choices implemented repeatedly distract from the film's emotional core. 

The story of Elliott and his father, Neil (Ed Harris), is the open wound that threatens to infect all other aspects of Elliott's life (and in fact, it does quite often). This reliance on past trauma and the ways in which one is able to spin it for the betterment of their future is near pornographic when it comes to Elliott and the way he utilizes it for personal gain. Constantly revisiting yet unwilling to ever reexamine the harrowing events of his youth, Elliott has cultivated praise, fame, and success, but for what reason? By claiming to be the fully examined self, Elliott is the archetype of the closeted male, any hint of danger and he reverts back to manic episodes of drug and self-abuse.

While Franco delivers on his portrayal of Elliott, it is another role in a long line of "there" performances. Meaning that, given Franco's frequent output few performances stand out. Harris is appropriately mean, and when acting against Franco, the two are able to create some violent and cathartic moments. However, it is Heard's performance that stands out, but is unfortunately lost in the mix due to the relegation of her as girlfriend-in-waiting.

Ultimately, The Adderall Diaries feels in tune with Clark Gregg's attempted adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke. Which is to say, while its intentions are good there seems to be a disconnect between the source material and its cinematic representation. Whether it be the supposed censoring of the darker,  more gruesome elements or a stylistic rift between the two, there is rarely a cohesive mood to be found.


director:  Pamela Romanowsky  writer:  Pamela Romanowsky  cinematographer:  Bruce Thierry Cheung  editor:  Marc Vives  composer:  Michael Andrews  cast:  James Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris, Christian Slater, Cynthia Nixon, Jim Parrack, Timothée Chalamet, Wilmer Valderrama  country:  USA  year:  2015

director: Pamela Romanowsky
writer: Pamela Romanowsky
cinematographer: Bruce Thierry Cheung
editor: Marc Vives
composer: Michael Andrews
cast: James Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris, Christian Slater, Cynthia Nixon, Jim Parrack, Timothée Chalamet, Wilmer Valderrama
country: USA
year: 2015