Drugs, daddy issues, delusion are a possible concoction for what makes a writer, but is everything a writer writes true?

The Adderall Diaries is a 2016 American crime thriller film written and directed by Pamela Romanowsky, based on a ‘true-crime memoir’ of the same name by Stephen Elliott. The underlying true crime is the Hans Reiser murder case. The film stars James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard and Christian Slater.

Author Stephen Elliot has a fascination with a high-profile murder case which leads him to his own troubled past. The case brings him to a new romance with Lana Edmond and induces him to confront his issues with his abusive father Neil. But he doesn’t expect what the case does to him; it brings him to confront the demons of his past, his memories. But are they really memories or are they fabrications of his own mentality produced to cope with life?

Stephen is an Adderall addict and takes other drugs such as Vicodin as well. Stephen is also a celebrated author; he made a living out of his traumatic past and is working on another project. But contrary to the story provided in his book, through which the readers come to believe that his father is dead, his father appears at one of his book readings. His readers are utterly disappointed and Stephen’s career promptly falls apart; projects decline, publishers withdraw, people don’t believe in him anymore. Neil, Stephen’s father, wants to make amends with him and this is where the story doesn’t go in favour of Stephen who becomes more addictive and from this, we understand that there must be something more to his past.

This is one of James Franco’s badly-played roles, probably because it was tough to portray the character demanded by the script or maybe the character would have made sense if the movie was allowed to be longer. The beginning had a promising touch to the whole plot but as the movie continued and the plot thickened it unfortunately fails. Could James Franco have done better? Considering all things, he could have. Did the role demand a washed-up writer? Most probably it did. With an actor like James Franco, the potential is unimaginable but maybe the screen play could have been better. The acting is noteworthy, but there wasn’t any sort of closure to the movie, the plot was left open ended.

Ed Harris played the most likely deranged father who in the mind of Eliot was an abusive, cruel man. Ed played the part pretty well. What had to be portrayed was a very irritating persona and the viewers would probably feel the effect way after watching his performance. He played it quite well; from being the father expressed in the words of Eliot to the real life sorrowful being who is trying to make amends with a son who most probably hates him.

The intensity of the role wins Harris a thumbs up, exemplified in the scene where he challenges his son to hit him and Franco walks off after Harris clutches his chest thinking that the old man was faking an attack. How the book portrayed the father is further intensified in the real character who seems to spoil everything for Eliot and this very aspect was brought out beautifully in the movie.

Amber Heard beautiful as she is, had nothing significant other than the fact that she was a temporary comfort to the addict Eliot. Eliot likes to be sexually aroused in different ways and in one such instance, he makes Heard choke him as hard as she can and he passes out from the pressure. Heard’s character who also had a troubled past lets go of her frustration but breaks down and leaves Eliot after the incident. The ‘seeing yourself’ part in another person and the revealing of the true disturbing nature of Eliot was brought to light to some extent but there was no emotional attachment to the character and no trigger to make the scene more gripping to the viewers.

The plot was passable although it needed some work. It was as if the cast couldn’t keep up with the plot because there seemed to be no direction as to where the movie was going. It seemed like it was an address to a father at the very least which was not why the book was written. A downer for James Franco but a trophy for Ed Harris, I have nothing for Amber Heard.

Ed Harris (2) Ed Harris (3)