HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Adderall Diaries
HTS Overall Score:64
Based on the memoirs of Stephen Elliot sporting the same name, “The Adderall” diaries is the perfect example of a film that employs style over substance to the point where you can tell the director honestly though the film was smarter than the audience. Instead it manages to be a mind numbing and overly depressing tale that uses flashy slow motion shots and flashbacks to create the ambiance of actually being on drugs while viewing the movie. Characters, besides Stephen (played by James Franco), are mainly superfluous. Even the ones that are supposedly central to the story as displayed in the trailer (mainly Ed Harris and Christian Slater). I tend to like most things that James Franco is involved with, but “The Adderall Diaries” tested my patience more than once, and the overly flashy and “hip” shooting style grated very heavily on my nerves.
Stephen Elliot (James Franco) is a tortured writer, having grown up with an abusive father (Ed Harris) who drove him from his home at a young age. Growing up with his friend Roger (Jim Parrack of “True Blood”) on the street left him a broken man, but in his adult years he has formed some semblance of serenity and has been making bank with his new memoir. That is until it all comes crashing down when his “dead” father appears at a book reading and informs the audience that most of what he they were hearing was all lies. Now book publishers are dropping him left and write, and Stephen is left with the frustrating job of putting his life back together. Grabbing at the first chance he gets, Stephen latches onto a high profile murder case (with the accused being played by Christian Slater) and tries his hand at true crime. Along the way he picks up New York Times Reporter Lana Edmond (Amber Heard) and the two of them embark on a drug fueled rough sex binge that ends with Lana finally throwing in the towel when she can’t stand any more of Stephen’s broken psyche.
His life in ruins with his estranged father in town, and even Roger and Lana pushing him away, Stephen has to come to grips with the fact everything in his life around him may be a delusion. Every person he encounters remembers things differently than he does. Events play out for them in a different and manner and it soon becomes obvious that Stephen’s perception of life and his circumstances very well may not be REALITY except in his own mind.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74249[/img]“The Adderall Diaries” was a very frustrating experience for me, especially having dealt with family members who are under drug fueled, or just mentally ill and can’t distinguish reality from fantasy. Director Pamela Romanowsky uses lots and lots of stylistic editing and slow motion shots to try and get across to the audience the “coolness” of her movie. However, the plot and end theme of “The Adderall Diaries” is about as murky as congealed tar, with whole sub plots in the movie just left dangling and unresolved. In fact most of the characters and events in the film are superfluous to the point of being ludicrous! Christian Slater’s trial goes nowhere, Lana goes nowhere, and even his father’s visit is left unresolved and ends on a stupidly sappy note. I get the overall premise of the story. That reality is skewed by how you view things, such as Stephen becoming obsessed with the murder trial and sure that Christian Slater’s character Hans is innocent, until to have the rug pulled out from under him at the end. The same goes for his relationship with his father and Roger. All of his life he’s believed one thing due to his own self editing, but in reality he was only believing his own inner monologue.
James Franco fares the best out of the cast, playing a fairly unlikeable but intriguing character as Stephen Elliot. I have no knowledge of the real life Stephen Elliot, so I have no basis for comparison, but his role in the film is was fairly engaging. The rest of the actors just sort of fade into the background and come and go at will. Amber Heard is fairly useless as Lana, and even her troubled past does nothing to further the character development or plot along in the slightest. Ed Harris is ok as the child beating father trying to make amends, but once again he’s not given a whole lot to work with in the script. The rest of them just fade into the background as one blurred mess of “existence”.
Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexuality, and some aberrant and disturbing content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74257[/img]Shot using the Red Epic camera system, “The Adderall Diaries” is a bleak and dull looking image that relies on heavily desaturated colors and hazy dreamlike sequences during the 87 minute runtime. To say that it isn’t a sharp and wonderfully lit picture is a bit of an understatement. Most of the film looks grey with hints of teal and amber throw in for good measure, during some of the brightly lit flashbacks such as when Stephen and Roger trash his father’s car. Blacks are murky and dim, with low shadow detail and a penchant for looking washed out a lot of the time. Sometimes the image clears up to a somewhat pleasing level of clarity, only for the next few scenes to look dreamy and hazy once more. It’s not a technically bad encode, but rather the stylistic choices of the cinematographer don’t exact lend itself towards eye candy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=74265[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track follows directly in the uninspiring footsteps of the video encode, barely mustering up enough panache and atmosphere to fill out brooding score by composer Michael Andrews. Dialog is strong and clear, but everything beyond that seems to just fall very flat and lifeless. LFE is boomy and one note dependent, and the surrounds get very little activity thrown their way besides a few background noises. It’s serviceable, but sadly lacking when compared to other new release films.
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary with Director Pamela Romanowsky
• "The Adderall Diaries: A Director’s Perspective” Featurette
Romanowsky tries to dazzle us with flashy (and sometimes WAY too flashy) sequences of previous pain in Stephen’s life, distracting us with murky and useless sex scenes that really don’t even begin to make sense, and leaves the audience feeling gipped if they actually stop and think about what they just watched. It almost felt like they were trying TOO hard to be a Hunter S. Thompson lite, and ended up just being an annoying mess instead. Audio and video are reasonably good for a new release, but extras are more than a bit slim on this disc. Personally I would just skip “The Adderall” diaries unless you have nothing going on during a sluggish Friday night.
Starring: Amber Heard, James Franco, Christian Slater
Directed by: Pamela Romanowsky
Written by: Pamela Romanowsky (Screenplay), Stephen Elliott (Memoir)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 87 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 5th, 2016
Buy The Adderall Diaries On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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