The Adderall Diaries (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)


I found “The Adderall Diaries” to be interesting in concept and a film made even more interesting by the performances of James Franco and Ed Harris.  But as a film that is an adaptation of a true-crime memoir, unfortunately the story strays too far from actual facts and filmmaker/writer Pamela Romanowsky tries to make it her own original film. Unfortunate.

Images courtesy of © The Adderall Diaries © 2015 Adderall Diaries, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Adderall Diaries


DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (for Language Throughout, Drug Use, Sexuality, and Some Aberrant and Disturbing Content)

Release Date: July 5, 2016

Directed by Pamela Romanowsky

Based on the Memoir by Stephen Elliott

Screenplay by Pamela Romanowsky

Produced by James Franco, VinceJolivette, JosephMcKelheer, James Reach

Co-Producer: Tyler Bacon, Anthon Brandonisio, Grant Mohrman, Kimberly Parker, Daniel Rainey

Executive-Producer: Ryan Dorff, Bill Kiely, Leo Kiely

Associate Producer: Ali Oremus, Matthew Shattuck

Cinematography by Bruce Thierry Cheung

Casting by Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee

Music by Michael Andrews

Edited by MarcVives

Production Design: Todd Fjelsted

Art Direction by Vanessa Riegel

Set Decoration by Graham Wichman

Costume Design by Brenda Abbandandolo


James Franco as Stephen Elliott

Ed Harris as Neil Elliott

Amber Heard as Lana Edmond

Wilmer Valderrama as Josh

Christian Slater as Hans Reiser

Cynthia Nixon as Jen Davis

Danny Flaherty as Teenage Roger

Jim Parrack as Roger

Timothee Chalamet as Teenage Stephen

Michael Cristofer as Paul Hora

Oscar® nominee James Franco is riveting as a famous but troubled author whose fascination with a high-profile murder case brings his own dark past into focus. Based on the best-selling book by Stephen Elliott, The Adderall Diaries follows one man’s desperate journey through sex, drugs, and lies as he tries to separate fact from fiction and ignite a life-changing romance. Ed Harris and Amber Heard costar in this gritty story about the shocking discoveries that lie beneath the truth.

In 2009, author/filmmaker Stephen Elliott (known for his novels “Happy Baby”, “What It Means to Love You”, “A Life Without Consequences” and the film “About Cherry”) wrote “The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism and Murder” which explored the gruesome crimes committed by Hans Reiser but also incorporating his challenges with writer’s block and his dependency on Adderall, his book was later adapted into a film.

Directed and written by Pamela Romanowsky (“The Color of Time”, “Live Girls”) and an adaptation of Stephen Elliott’s work, the crime thriller is not a full adaptation of Elliot’s novel, but written for entertainment, thus loosely-based on the life of the real Stephen Elliott.

The film would star James Franco (“Spider-Man” films, “127 Hours”, “This is the End”), Ed Harris (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Gravity”, “The Abyss”), Amber Heard (“Drive Angry”, “Zombieland”, “The Danish Girl”), Christian Slater (“Interview with the Vampire”, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, “True Romance”, “Pump Up the Volume”), Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”, “Amadeus”), Jim Parrack (“Fury”, “Battle Los Angeles”, “Annapolis”) and Wilmer Valderrama (“That 70’s Show”, “Fast Food Nation”).

“The Adderall Diaries” revolves around an author named Stephen Elliott (portrayed by James Franco).  As the film would introduce us to home video of a young Stephen and his father Neil (portrayed by Ed Harris), playing and growing together.  We start to see how this loving family was destroyed as Neil’s wife became sick, Neil had an affair and started his own family, meanwhile Stephen had difficulties growing up and becoming homeless.

We see memories of Stephen’s past and his father beating and drowning him.

As Stephen begins to write about a high-profile murder case about Hans Reiser (portrayed by Christian Slater), he meets New York Times writer Lana Edmond (portrayed by Amber Heard) and both begin a romantic relationship.

But as Stephen promotes his book about how he was homeless and how his father died a long time ago, from the crowd, his father Neil outs his son as being a fraud and that he is very much alive.

With being outted for falsifying his book by his father, his agent Jen Davis tries to do damage control and wants Stephen to come up with evidence of his past, to validate his book.

Meanwhile, Stephen turns to drugs, dangerous sex and also hanging out with his childhood friend Roger (portrayed by Jim Parrack) but, as we get to see pieces of Stephen’s life, are his memories of what happened to him as a child…fact or fiction?


“The Adderall Diaries” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any problems with overall picture quality and for the most part, “The Adderall Diaries” looks very good in HD!


“The Adderall Diaries” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue-driven, while the surround channels are utilized more for ambiance, especially during the more confrontational moments between father and son.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.


“The Adderall Diaries” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by writer/director Pamela Romanowsky.
  • The Adderall Diaries: A Director’s Perspective – (11:48) Pamela Romanowsky discusses Stephen’s writing, the characters and the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (9:47) Featuring deleted scenes from the film (note: The deleted scenes are all presented as one full featurette).


“The Adderall Diaries” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.

After watching Pamela Romanowsky’s “The Adderall Diaries”, I can say that I enjoyed the concept.

As dysfunctional families is common in today’s society and interpretations of why things are dysfunctional can be seen differently within each family member, memories of problematic pasts and pain can easily transition into something more than what actually transpired.

The film revolves around Stephen Elliott, a man who we learn from the beginning, had a problematic past due to his upbringing of what appears to be a father who was loving but later became abusive and eventually had died.

As Stephen becomes a successful author and chosen to write another book on Hans Reiser, a husband/father accused of murdering his wife, he develops a relationship with journalist, Lana Edmond and from then on, we start to see things spiral downward for Stephen.

His father Neil is not dead and in front of a public reading, Neil calls out his son for the lies that he wrote.  His best friend Roger questions Stephen on his interpretations of things that have happened in the past.  His agent Jen must try to rescue Stephen’s career after it was revealed that his novel about his father was a lie.  And Stephen is shown to be a masochist and trying to get his new girlfriend to try all these different type of painful and risky sexual techniques on him.

And while the film benefits from having talent such as James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard, Christian Slater, Cynthia Nixon, Jim Parrack and Wilmer Valderrama, the film doesn’t utilize the cast effectively.

If anything, the protagonist Stephen Elliott comes off more as an uber douche bag who has manufactured lies in his memories which have replaced fact.

What makes “The Adderall Diaries” even more disappointing is that it strays too far from the original book and who the real Stephen Elliott really is.  So much that Stephen Elliott had to write an article for the Vulture to dispute many things that were presented on the film.

Stephen Elliot wrote, “To list everything the movie got wrong might take many pages and require rewatching the movie, something I’m not willing to do. Most of it doesn’t matter: I don’t ride a motorcycle, I’ve never taken a boxing lesson, I didn’t date a reporter at the New York Times. I also don’t date women who aren’t kinky and try to convince them to choke me. I date women whose desires are compatible with my own.”

It’s one thing to create a whole different film, but to utilize the same names and to stray far from the original book, the film is more of Pamela Romanowsky’s own creation and Stephen Elliott, is just the name of a character.

It’s one of those situations where if a book was going to be loosely adapted, then change the name, change the characters, so people who enjoyed the book will not have any high expectations.

And as for the title “The Adderall Diaries” and Stephen’s addiction that is featured in the book, it doesn’t really bare any weight in the film.  And the actual murder by Hans Reiser, that the book was primarily investigating, the film incorporates it but was it even necessary?”

The strength of the film is primarily the broken relationship between father and son and James Franco and Ed Harris do a fantastic job playing off each others anger.

The film also features quite a bit of kinky sex scenes between James Franco and Amber Heard, who clearly added these scenes to portray the character as wreckless.  But felt the scenes were used too much and took away from the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good showing great detail on close-ups, dialogue is crisp and clear and you also get a few special features included as well.

Overall, I found “The Adderall Diaries” to be interesting in concept and a film made even more interesting by the performances of James Franco and Ed Harris.  But as a film that is an adaptation of a true-crime memoir, unfortunately the story strays too far from actual facts and filmmaker/writer Pamela Romanowsky tries to make it her own original film. Unfortunate.