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The Adderall Diaries (2015)

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Elliot, a troubled former successful writer decides to write about a missing wife and the following murder trial of her husband.


Pamela Romanowsky


Pamela Romanowsky, Stephen Elliott (based on the book by)
2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Franco ... Stephen Elliott
Ed Harris ... Neil Elliott
Amber Heard ... Lana Edmond
Jim Parrack ... Roger
Timothée Chalamet ... Teenage Stephen
Danny Flaherty ... Teenage Roger
Christian Slater ... Hans Reiser
Cynthia Nixon ... Jen Davis
Elizabeth Hobgood Elizabeth Hobgood ... Kathleen
Tamzin Brown ... Miranda
Rochelle Bostrom Rochelle Bostrom ... Amanda
Laura Frost ... Nina Reiser
Jake Katzman ... Cori Resier
Adam LeFevre ... Bill DuBois
Michael Cristofer ... Paul Hora


As a writer stymied by past success, writers block, substance abuse, relationship problems and a serious set of father issues, Elliott's cracked-out chronicle of a bizarre murder trial amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Not long into the 2007 trial of programmer Hans Reiser, accused of murdering his wife, the defendant's friend Sean Sturgeon obliquely confessed to several murders (though not the murder of Reiser's wife). Elliott, caught up in the film-ready twist and his tenuous connection to Sturgeon (they share a BDSM social circle), makes a record of the proceedings. The result is a scattered, self-indulgent romp through the mind of a depressive narcissist obsessed with his insecurities and childhood traumas. Written by Publisher's Weekly

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexuality, and some aberrant and disturbing content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

10 March 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

True Deception See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,517, 17 April 2016, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$11,287, 24 April 2016
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Second film James Franco has starred in that was released by A24, his first one was (Spring Breakers) See more »


[last lines]
Stephen Elliott: You remember when you taught me to drive? I was 14. You let me drive out to Warren park in a '69 mustang. I loved that car. You used to take me out, let me drive. I remember feelin' so happy and free, full of hope and potential.
Neil Elliott: I don't know why you always told people I taught you to drive in the mustang. It was a red 1968 Oldsmobile Delmont convertible, in Warren park in the parkin' lot. You were belligerent, and you were a terrible driver. So we only did it once.
Stephen Elliott: Wanna go for a ...
See more »


Featured in Half in the Bag: 2016 Movie Catch-up (2016) See more »


El Tecolete
Written by Marcel Frank
Published by Thomas J. Valentino, Inc.
Performed by Marcel Frank
Courtesy of Selectracks, Inc.
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User Reviews

There's a few too many ingredients that give Pamela Romanowsky's feature a bad taste...
18 April 2015 | by ClaytonDavisSee all my reviews

Writer/director Pamela Romanowsky's adaptation of "The Adderall Diaries" based on Stephen Elliott's memoir has so many great ideas. It's a blend of different genres that calls back to many different films from the past however, it's unfocused execution and narrative ultimately leaves you bewildered rather than intrigued.

Starring Academy Award nominee James Franco as Stephen Elliott, an author whose world is turned upside down when his estranged father (played by Ed Harris) accuses him in public of fabricating his book which tells the story of his life. With a new relationship, drug relapse, and focusing on a very public murder trial, will Stephen be able to survive everything that life is throwing at him?

As previously mentioned, there's A LOT going on in the story. We're getting elements of "Shattered Glass" then "Blue Valentine" then "The Basketball Diaries." Romanowsky isn't confident about what she wants her film to be. Does she want it to be a film about family relationships or dissection of the mind of an addict? Does she want to explore the ramifications of sex through violence or is she trying to make a statement about the perception of our lives within ourselves? She's saying so many things that it all ends up on blurred lines and in a haze. I will say that her abilities is a filmmaker is nothing to scoff at. She creates genuine moments and settles into her better written scenes with courage and ferocity. I'd still be very intrigued to see her next venture.

James Franco's resume with independent cinema has left much to be desired. His performances are often self-indulgent or misguided by his own direction or any other filmmaker he's working with. His turn in "The Adderall Diaries" is one of his more impressive works that he's constructed as of late. Though his motivations and actions aren't always made abundantly clear, Franco sheds some of his barriers to allow some connection with his audience.

You can't get much better than Ed Harris in terms of an actor that shines in just about anything he does, no matter how the film he inhabits turns out. As Neil, Stephen's father, Harris elevates the thin material and focuses on the emotion of a father's regret with near precision. I'm still anxiously awaiting his Oscar-winning role. This doesn't quite make the cut.

Other aspects of the film include the beautiful Amber Heard, the multi-talented Cynthia Nixon, the oddly involved Christian Slater, and the scene-stealing abilities of Jim Parrack (Hoyt from "True Blood").

Overall "The Adderall Diaries" is a misguided attempt by a director who has a keen eye for some things but lacks in others. Romanowsky's guidance on her actors are some of the film's biggest highlights but ultimately just falls short in too many spots. The opening sequence was quite good and there was a scene in which I nearly cried. Some may find some qualities to take home with them, others will simply leave it at the door.

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