The Adderall Diaries (2015) – reviewed by George

This is a bit hard to watch, but that’s because it’s dealing with real people in real situations that we would rather not think about much. Told within a father/son context, but about us all, male and female, this movie shows how we use selective memory to make ourselves look better in retrospect when we confront our worst behavior.
James Franco and Ed Harris play a son and his father, Stephen and Neil Elliott, who have a difficult history of battling and blaming, and it has come down to avoiding each other at all costs. Then, when either wants to make amends or just bridge the gap, conversation quickly becomes confrontation, and the relationship is OFF again. Stephen is also addicted to prescription drugs.
Stephen is a writer whose editor Jen Davis (Cynthia Nixon) has gotten him a deal with Penguin. Stephen puts the deal at risk by getting compulsively interested in a trial that reminds  him of his own family situation. Hans Reiser (Christian Slater) is accused of his wife’s murder, a murder the Prosecutor maintains was committed in order to retain custody of his children. Now, actually wanting the children is not the hook that gets to Stephen – it is the confrontational relationship between the father and son – so much like Stephen’s own relationship with Neil. At one point in the trial the testimony gets too close to Stephen’s story and he goes to the Men’s Room, where he takes Adderall, Klonopin, and Vicodin (quite a cocktail!).
After Reiser’s trial ends Stephen interviews him, and Reiser says, “Validation is a hell of a drug.” And he doesn’t mean validation by verdict, but validation by the fact that his deluded view of his wife got to be heard as part of his testimony. And Stephen gets an unwanted glimpse into his own soul.
Two other actors must be mentioned by name: Amber Heard and Jim Parrack. But all the actors here are wonderful and real. This is a really flawless ensemble. And a round of applause for the person behind all this: Writer/Director Pamela Romanowsky, who based her screenplay on the book by Stephen Elliott. This is a rare film that entertains, challenges, and informs. Don’t see it if you want to continue nursing your grudges. Did it clear up my problems? No. Only I can do that. But it gave me a lot to think about.

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