Plot: What’s it about?
It’s hard to turn anywhere without running into James Franco (or brother Dave). That’s fine by me actually as I tend to enjoy both of them. Granted, with the sheer number of films that Franco is a part of, he’s bound to have some misses, but I do have to admit that I am a fan. One of my favorite recent films was with Franco poet Alan Ginsburg in the movie Howl. It’s a movie that I’d have likewise never heard of, but I thought he was simply amazing in it. Franco enjoys the benefits of being an “A” list Hollywood star all the while continuing to do some rather low key work as well. One of those films in question is The Adderall Diaries – the film adaptation of author Stephen Elliott’s novel. I’d never heard of it, never heard of the book and got pretty excited when I read the press release for the Blu-ray. Are we ready for James Franco as a BDSM, drug addicted author?
Stephen Elliott (James Franco) had a rough childhood. His father (Ed Harris) virtually abandoned him after the passing of his mother and he rebelled. The victim of both abuse and neglect, Stephen had a tough time doing the things most kids take for granted. Flash forward to the present day and he’s a semi-successful author who’s built his reputation on writings based on his troubled childhood (and the fact that his father has passed). But, as any author knows, he’s got a case of writer’s block, and his editor (Cynthia Nixon) is trying to find him some publishers for his impending novel. Stephen meets Lana (Amber Heard), someone who might be as messed up as he is, but she fuels his fire to write. In somewhat of a backstory, Elliott takes an interest in a true crime story featuring a tech-mogul – Hans Reiser (Christian Slater) who may or may not have murdered his wife. This, along with the revelation that his father has resurfaced, only adds to the confusion that is Stephen’s life.
I wanted to like this movie. And in a way…I did. But I just felt that it was all over the place. The right elements were there, certainly the cast is capable of better things, but I just felt…lost. I’d not read the novel, so maybe this is the narrative in which the movie was supposed to be told, though I doubt it. The part with the murder story seemed to make no sense and it just got in the way of what could have been some more character development. I think James Franco is good in his part, after all Franco himself has taken pen to paper (with mixed results), so he can pretty easily pull off the “heavily dissociated author” thing without too much extra effort. Veteran actor Ed Harris turns in a smaller, yet memorable role as well. This isn’t one I’d recommend unless fans of the novel are itching to see it on screen. It’s kind of a mess and even at 87 minutes started to feel a bit long.
Video: How’s it look?
If you’re aching to see James Franco’s bare chest with clothespins fastened to it, well then you’re in luck! All kidding aside, the 2.39:1 AVC HD image does look the part. I found some of the scenes a bit exposed on both the over and under side, but by and large it’s what we’d expect from a new to Blu-ray film. Colors are a bit on the drab side, contrast seems to play in this film’s favor with dark circles under the actors’ eyes and so forth. It’s not a bad-looking movie by any means, I’ve just seen a bit better and felt that this was a tad bit inconsistent.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Likewise the included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few choice moments, but it’s a pretty dialogue-heavy film. Surrounds are prevalent during a few scenes, a nightclub comes to mind. The LFE have only a few scenes to flex their muscle. The remainder of the audio mix is relegated to the front stage which provides an ample platform for the mix. Again, it’s a passable, yet adequate track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – At only 87 minutes, you’d figure that some of these scenes would have made the final cut. You would be mistaken.
- Audio Commentary – Director Pamela Romanowsky delivers a fairly decent track. I was actually excited to listen to this one and did so before watching the movie itself. She tells of the trials of adapting the novel to screen, casting and some of the other pratfalls associated with the film. It’s actually a pretty decent track that fans (admit it, you’re out there) will certainly enjoy.
- The Adderall Diaries: A Director’s Perspective – Having listened to the track, some of what Romanowsky says is a bit redundant, but if you skipped the commentary track, this has everything you’re looking for in an included featurette.
The Bottom Line
While not Franco’s worst movie (but not his best, by a long shot), this is kind of a scattered hodgepodge of a film. It seems aimless and all over the map trying to reel in Stephen Elliott’s novel and place it on screen. While the Blu-ray both looks and sounds good, that can’t really detract from the film itself. It’s a rental, for sure.