The Adderall Diaries (2016): Fiction as Fact – (Review)

Amber Heard and James Franco

The Adderall Diaries is taken from Stephen Elliot’s semi-autobiographical first novel “A life Without Consequences” and the author is quick to point out that this was a work of fiction. Adapted and directed by Pamela Romanowsky (her second feature length film as director) the film follows Stephen Elliot, played by James Franco as he unravels while following a murder case.  The film is, according to the real Elliot, masquerading as fact even though it is based upon fiction.

Amber Heard plays Times reporter Lana Emond, that the film Stephen dates and then falls in love with. Ultimately he alienates the woman as he loses his grip on what is real and what is not.

Ed Harris is Stephen’s estranged father Neil. A man that Elliot has been telling the world is dead. His memoirs, that are on the best seller list, tell of a bullying ogre who made Stephen’s life hell growing up.

Christian Slater plays real life murderer  Hans Reiser who, in the film,  is on trial for  the murder of his mail order wife Nina.  Stephen begins to fixate  on the man and projects his own issues onto the suspect on trial.

Elliot is into BDSM, drugs (specifically Adderall) and has fractured memories of his youth.  His father Neil attempts to reconcile with his son and eventually the two start to converse.

The main message of The Adderall Diaries appears to coincide with what the author says he learned around the time of writing his first novel.  Stephen says that everyone’s version of the truth is their version [sic].  The film does, at least, put this across rather well.

In the film Franco’s Elliot is a man not in touch with himself at all. His gaze, despite being inward,  is narcissist and  blind. His faulty and drug enhanced memories are all blurry and violent. In these his father is the villain and he the innocent victim.

The author lies to everyone but more importantly he lies to himself. The man is on a self destructive path that turns those he cares about away.  Stephen irrevocably damages his relationship with Lana (Heard) and nearly ends his lifelong friendship with Roger (Jim Parrack).

(On a sidenote: Amber Heard has been lumbered with what must be the worst wig or extensions ever seen on a romantic lead. It is a wonder she did not sue the production or at least the director for putting such a mess on her head.)

Slater makes the most of his smaller role as programmer turned murderer Reiser who was convicted of killing the mother of his children. In the film his defense was that he was trying to be a good father. It feels as though he felt that his wife suffered from Munchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS). Whether this was true for the real Reiser case is not known.

The Adderall Diaries is a fairly downbeat film.  It is slow and despite a fair amount of sex, both kinky and straight, it is a mundane film.  Another problem is that, as portrayed by Franco, Elliot is unlikeable.  When he breaks up with Lena we do not really care.

(Another sidenote: Ed Harris looked shockingly old. Granted the actor is around bus pass age at 65 but he has looked the same for years.  Perhaps it was makeup enhanced but it was a surprise to see Harris suddenly age. Whatever the case it was effective for his role and helped to sell his character’s story.)

The real Stephen Elliot has pointed out a number of inconsistencies with the film. Mainly to do with the publishing world but he says there  are a few discrepancies about his “story” as well.

For someone who lived outside the country for number of years, this fiction presented as fact film was eye opening. It was a total surprise to learn that someone whose product was integral to the Linux kernel murdered his wife for example.

Director Pamela Romanowsky does quite a decent job here but the subject matter lets the side down.  Ultimately it fails to really garner any real interest apart from the childhood story of Elliot and his father. Those flashbacks do beg to be resolved.

The Adderall Diaries is streaming on Amazon Prime at the moment and it is worth a look but definitely not two.  A 3 star film that is quite underwhelming by the end. Although it does have its moments. (Think Ed Harris here.)

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

Due to the movie getting its US distribution I decided to do a little review. Thanks to Tyson Carter over at http://headinavice.com (just click on the link to check out his blog) for reminding me how much I love this film. I’m still experimenting here so bear with me! Enjoy!

The Ward (2010) Deja Vue All Over Again

I was really excited to see that John Carpenter had made a new film. This is his first full length feature since he made the mediocre Ghosts of Mars (2001) and by anybodies reckoning nine years is a long time between films. The films release was not well received by critics who generally mauled the film. I imagine John is wondering why he came back.

The films cast is well rounded with actors that have pedigrees to be proud of. Main protagonist Kristen is played by Amber Heard (who made such a big splash in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane ) and her psychiatric nemesis, Dr Stringer is played by Jared Harris (who sounds so much like his father Richard that it is almost disturbing).  The rest of the cast includes Lyndsy Fonseca fresh form the brilliant Kick Ass, Mamie GummerDanielle PanabakerLaura-LeighMika Boorem all actors with a list of credits as long as your arm.

The “Readers Digest” version of the plot is as follows:

A Girl is hiding   in the woods wearing a slip and house slippers. A police car is in the area answering a call. The girl runs from the police and sets a house on fire. The police catch her and she is put into an insane asylum.  We find out her name is Kristen and she  is placed in a room that the previous occupant vanished from. Her first night in the room something steals her blanket while she is sleeping and she finds a broken bracelet that spells the name Alice. The next day she meets the other five  occupants of the mental ward. What follows is a series of scenes where Kristen bonds with her ward-mates, interacts with Dr Stringer and repeatedly tries to escape.

Several short scenes show a pre-pubescent girl in chains who is about to be sexually abused by a large bearded man. intermixed with all this is the appearance of a gruesome looking wraith who is dispatching the ward occupants in very nasty ways. We also find out that Dr Stringer is using some sort of ‘new’ treatment on the girls in the ward. The wraith we find out is a previous girl from the ward that no one will talk about initially. The girls finally reveal that her name is Alice and they all killed her, because she was mean. With the dead Alice busily wreaking revenge on her killers, the six occupants of the ward have now been whittled down to just Kristen and Zoey and together they make one last bid for freedom.

I enjoyed the film but I could never really get invested in it. It felt more like a mystery thriller than your bog standard horror film. The “plot twist” at the end of the film was good enough, but unfortunately it has been done before. Comparisons to Shutter Island have been made and I can see why but, I felt, however, that the film had more in common with the 2003 film Identity. It is not a stretch to say the film is perhaps a mix of the two.

There were very few ‘jump’ moments in the film. The times I did jump had more to do with the sound being so loud versus the action being so scary. The interaction between Kristen and her ward mates was good, but not terrific by any means. I did like the scenes between Dr Stringer and Kristen. Stringer always made me feel uneasy. As the audience we don’t trust Stringer and question his motives. He comes across as a caring sensitive man one moment only to turn into a figure of apparent cruelty.

The cinematography is good and the FX on the wraith was superb. The hands alone were quite possibly the creepiest thing about the entire film. Over all, I felt the film was missing something. Perhaps it is because this has been ” a horror weekend.” My daughter and I have been glutting ourselves on three horror films and one science fiction film.

In all honesty, all the films have ‘brought something to the table’ but Carpenters film did not quite deliver. I have no idea why he decided to wait nine years before making another film, but, I don’t feel as though the break improved his film making capabilities. It is a shame that the last film he made before his break garnered the same sort of reception that his most recent film has.

The film is worth a look, if for no other reason than to admire the talented cast’s performances. Just don’t expect to be too surprised by the films ‘twist’ ending.