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The Adderall Diaries: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Adderall Diaries (2016) movie poster The Adderall Diaries

Theatrical Release: April 15, 2016 / Running Time: 87 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Pamela Romanowsky / Writers: Stephen Elliott (book); Pamela Romanowsky (screenplay)

Cast: James Franco (Stephen Elliott), Ed Harris (Neil Elliott), Amber Heard (Lana Edmond), Jim Parrack (Roger), Timothιe Chalamet (Teenage Stephen Elliott), Wilmer Valderrama (Josh), Michael Cristofer (Paul Hora), Danny Flaherty (Teenage Roger), Adam LeFevre (Bill DuBois), Cynthia Nixon (Jen Davis), Christian Slater (Hans Reiser)

Buy The Adderall Diaries from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD • DVD + Digital • Instant Video

You may need to find an additional source of income if you wish to fully support the career of James Franco. Seventeen years after emerging on "Freaks and Geeks", the actor who recurred on "General Hospital" the same year he was both a host and a nominee at the Oscars continues to stay beyond busy.
His IMDb filmography is overflowing with the red parentheticals of upcoming projects you typically only find in such volume on the pages of slumming workaholics like Eric Roberts and Dean Cain. It is practically a full-time job to see everything that Franco acts in, writes, directs, produces or paints, even if he often wears multiple hats on the same gig.

Much of Franco's work -- a self-cameo in The Night Before, the lead role in Stephen King and J.J. Abrams' Hulu original series "11.22.63", voiceover in the CGI comedy Sausage Party -- is easy to find. Even more of it flies under the radar, either largely or entirely foregoing traditional theatrical release before popping up in digital venues and other forms of home video. That is the fate of The Adderall Diaries, a respectable film that young but prolific A24 failed to find an audience for in 30 theaters this spring.

The always busy, never bored James Franco plays author Stephen Elliott in "The Adderall Diaries."

Adderall casts Franco as Stephen Elliott, a New York author whose "true crime memoir" of the same name is the basis of the film. The Elliott of the film writes of his rough upbringing, as the product of an abusive father (Ed Harris) who abandoned his sick wife and family. Elliott blames his faults, from his dependence on prescription ADHD pills to his fragmented writing style, on his troubled adolescence and that deceased father he doesn't miss. Elliott's personal writings have brought him success and desirable publishing deals, but he is now dealing with some writer's block.

Meanwhile, during a book reading, Elliott's father shows up very much alive, casting instant doubt over the authenticity of Elliott's writing. The revelation of James Frey-level embellishment complicates Elliott's deal at Penguin Books and requires him to suddenly produce documentation of his now-disputed accounts of being homeless and in group homes.

Hoping to get his creative juices flowing ΰ la Truman Capote, Elliott gets a friend to land him access to attend the high-profile trial of Hans Reiser (Christian Slater), a software tycoon accused of murdering his wife. Elliott wants to write a true crime book about the case, but Reiser won't talk to him and the questions raised about Reiser's parenting only pushes Elliott back to thinking of his own strained relationship with his father and whether his memories of a tumultuous youth are even reliable.

The Reiser case also sparks a romance for Elliott with Lana Edmond (Amber Heard), a New York Times reporter who strikes us as much too hot and hip to be a New York Times reporter. Their fast developing relationship grants us a front row seat to Elliott's masochistic fetishes and other vices.

New York Times reporter Lana Edmond (Amber Heard) helps Stephen Elliott (James Franco) look up his old court records.

Adderall is adapted for the screen and directed by Pamela Romanowsky, whose only prior feature credit is the little-known, little-seen, long-unreleased 2014 biopic The Color of Time starring Franco as poet C.K. Williams. Romanowsky's second film is provocative, somewhat unconventional, and nicely photographed by the only slightly more seasoned Bruce Theirry Cheung.
As evidenced by its poor performance in limited release and low user rating on IMDb (currently just 5.1), Adderall is not be the easiest blend for viewers to swallow. But there is obvious substance to go along with the style of this film, which repeatedly relies on hazy flashbacks to flesh out those complicated formative years of its protagonist (the younger version of which is played by Timothιe Chalamet).

Romanowsky displays more than enough talent to justify her getting more work in a profession that is absurdly male-dominated. She draws good performances from her cast, especially Franco, who rarely seems to phone it in despite his improbably full work load. The cast also includes Cynthia Nixon as Elliott's literary agent and Wilmer Valderrama, picking up a rare theatrical credit in one brief bar scene and one short voicemail.

It is easy to tell that the narrative would compel more with the additional detail and lesser time constraints afforded by print, as well as the layer of truth from actually getting the author's story in his own words. But Romanowsky and company do a fairly commendable job of transferring both the truth and ambiguities of the text to the screen, an evidently challenging task particularly at a brisk runtime of under 90 minutes.

After barely registering at the box office, where it opened to unfavorable reviews, Adderall Diaries reached stores last week from A24 partner Lionsgate, who released it in their standard DVD + Digital and Blu-ray + Digital HD editions.

The Adderall Diaries: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video


The Adderall Diaries often has a bold and stylish look that you would assume was developed by a filmmaker with more experience. The Blu-ray's sharp, clean 2.40:1 presentation thoroughly pleases, as does its fine if not so noticeable 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, the only one offered.

Screenwriter-director Pamela Romanowsky discusses her second movie in an audio commentary and this video interview. A fractured Christian Slater appears on The Adderall Diaries Blu-ray's artsy menu montage.


The Adderall Diaries is joined by three extras on Blu-ray, all of which also make the DVD edition per Lionsgate's customer-friendly practices.

First up comes an audio commentary by screenwriter-director Pamela Romanowsky.

She gives a screen-specific chat with the enthusiasm of a second-timer, as she notes subtle details, identifies New York locations where the film was shot in 2014, describes some of the changes she made from the text to incorporate facets of her own life, and remarks upon the glass harmonica score. Solo commentaries are hard, but Romanowsky makes this one a reasonably easy listen for those who enjoyed the movie or would like to start making their own.

Next, "The Adderall Diaries: A Director's Perspective" (11:49) serves as a making-of featurette simply by interspersing film clips throughout an interview of Romanowsky. She discusses the adaptation, what the actors brought to their roles, and her favorite scenes to shoot.

Then we come to a deleted scenes reel (9:47), which starts with flashy alternate opening titles and proceeds to include an extended Stephen and Lana argument, a teenaged Stephen breaking into his father's house, adult Stephen opening up to what sounds like a therapist but ends up being a kinky lover, getting whipped by another lady we can assume is a prostitute, and boxing in some kind of dreamlike bit.

Finally, "Trailers" does not hold any Adderall Diaries previews. Instead, it repeats the disc-opening reel comprise of full theatrical previews for Mojave, The Lobster, Mississippi Grind, Equals, and Room.

The menu plays jumpy clips and soft piano score. The Blu-ray both supports bookmarks and gives you the option to resume unfinished playback.

The lone insert within the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase supplies a code and directions for accessing the Digital HD with UltraViolet version of the film that is included with your purchase.

Neil Elliott (Ed Harris) is not as dead as his son's writings claimed.


The Adderall Diaries likely lacks the impact of the memoir on which it is based, but it provides an engaging and thoughtful presentation that is more satisfying than you'd expect given its poor reviews and blink-and-miss theatrical release. Lionsgate's Blu-ray pleases to a similar degree with its fine audio/video and suitable handful of extras.

Buy The Adderall Diaries from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

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Reviewed July 10, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 A24, Windowseat Entertainment, Rabbit Bandini Productions, and Lionsgate. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.