The Adderall Diaries is a 2015 American crime thriller film written and directed by Pamela Romanowsky, based on a "true-crime memoir" book of the same name by Stephen Elliott. The underlying true crime is the Hans Reiser murder case. The film stars James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard and Christian Slater.
The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 16, 2015. The film was released on DirecTV Cinema on March 10, 2016, prior to opening in a limited release on April 15, 2016, by A24.
Stephen Elliott is a successful author with a troubling childhood. His mother died when he was a child and his father was physically and psychologically abusive. He has lived most of his life behaving very destructively and abusing drugs and committing petty vandalism.
He was recently gotten a book deal to write his next book. He has decided to write about Hans Reiser, who is a software guru who developed the Reiser filesystem. He had a volatile marriage and his wife has gone missing. Despite his claims that his wife has simply gone into hiding to hurt him, the cops have arrested him for her murder and he is on trial. Stephen is attending court every day and following the case in hopes of writing a best seller.
His previous book was a memoir about his childhood that is about to get released. At the release party, he is reading from his book talking about how his late father hurt and abused him and his father Neil Elliott stands up in the crowd and calls him a liar. This causes him to question his childhood memories. In despair, he gets high and goes to a club and sleeps with a random person. He wakes up the middle of next day. His voicemails include his publisher dropping him for missing an important meeting and a girlfriend he was starting a relationship with dumping him. To make matters worse, he also realizes that he slept through the jury finding Hans Reiser guilty of murder.
He connects with his father and realizes that he is dying and wants to make amends. While talking, he figures out that while Neil made some mistakes in parenting, Stephen is falsely remembering his father being downright abusive. A recurring memory of his father handcuffing him until he bled was because Stephen was trying to kill himself and Neil was desperately trying to restrain him.
In the end, he writes over the course of two days about making amends with his father. His agent reads it and loves it. She agrees to find him another publisher. Meanwhile, it is revealed in the news that Hans has finally admitted to killing his wife because she was going to leave him and take his kids and he killed her in anger. He has shown the cops where her body is buried in exchange for a lesser sentence.James Franco as Stephen Elliott
Timothee Chalamet as teenage Stephen Elliott
Ed Harris as Neil Elliott
Amber Heard as Lana Edmond
Christian Slater as Hans Reiser
Jim Parrack as Roger
Danny Flaherty as teenage Roger
Wilmer Valderrama as Josh
Cynthia Nixon as Jen Davis
Michael Cristofer as Paul Hora
Director Pamela Romanowsky met James Franco at New York University while attending the MFA Film Program. After collaborating together on a short film, he hired her to direct The Adderall Diaries as he had previously purchased the rights. In June 2014, Christian Slater had been cast in the film.
Principal photography began on May 16, 2014 in Brooklyn. On May 23, filming was underway in New York City.
The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 16, 2015. Shortly after the premiere, its distributed rights were acquired by A24 Films and DirecTV Cinema, the film would premiere on DirecTV before a theatrical and video on demand release.
The film was released on March 10, 2016, on DirecTV Cinema prior to a limited theatrical release on April 15, 2016.
The film received negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 19% score based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 4.1/10. Metacritic reports a 42 out of 100 rating based on 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Author Stephen Elliott reviewed the film negatively saying that the final result had little in common with his memoir and wondered "why calling the character Stephen Elliott was necessary."