Nominated for: In Competition Feature Films
When The Adderall Diaries, Stephen Elliot’s true-crime memoir from 2009, was optioned as a film by James Franco, the writer had ample reason for celebration. The resulting movie, however, bore disappointingly little resemblance to the truth. With After Adderall, Elliot has produced an artful counterpoint, a re-appropriation of his own history which weaves the story of James Franco’s film into a heavy stylised New Wave aesthetic, with a constant hum of meta-commentary. As the production of his story develops, Stephen Elliot the character (played by the man himself) increasingly spends his time probing the nature of perspective in storytelling, and the film grows into an abstract, ideational genre pastiche.
“meditative and stylised, a meandering true story unafraid of embracing arthouse complexities”
Two scenes in particular stand out. The first is the pitch meeting, in which The Adderall Diaries’ production plan is laid out to Elliot over the phone. Sitting in a room with the film’s director, who was one of Franco’s classmates from university (Franco, of course, having undertaken a recent degree course), Elliot is told over the phone by ‘James Franco’ how creative control is out of his hands, while faced with a small, foppish-looking photo of the man himself. This scene is conceptually very funny, and something about James Franco’s grinning face makes what could seem snide instead merely playful.
The second is one in which Elliot stumbles into a casting session, and meets the director (wearing a t-shirt reading ‘DIRECTOR’), and the casting agent, played by Six Feet Under alumni Michael C. Hall and Lili Taylor. Hall is a greatly gifted actor, who found fame with Dexter but did incomparable work years before playing David Fisher on HBO’s acclaimed series. His natural charisma is on show here, and an imposing, face-to-camera close-up is one of the most involving points of the film.
After Adderall has a distinctive visual style, at times powerful in its choices of image. For a film made on a shoe-string budget, there is much to be admired in both the look and narrative aim of the project. There are some scenes which fail to ignite, but never for lack of ambition. The film’s website proudly displays a quotation which dubs it ‘the most literary movie ever made’. While this is obviously excessive, After Adderall is consummately cinema-literate, and the inclusion of many real writers in the cast helps lend it a palpably literary feel. Elliot’s third feature is meditative and stylised, a meandering true story unafraid of embracing arthouse complexities.
Image: Stephen Elliot