I was intrigued by this story. I have a brother and sister that reminded me of this character. Both of them remember their childhoods as horrible when in reality, the problem was mostly with both of them.
It’s also a bit reminiscent of the fiasco author James Frey got into when he wrote his “memoir” A Million Little Pieces and got a big endorsement from Oprah. Turns out the book was fiction, and James Frey lost lots of money, and it hurt his career.
Another James — James Franco — plays Elliot, who has a huge literary career (we see him doing book signings and taking photos with fans). He’s not the normal author. He wears rock T-shirts, drinks beer, snorts coke, and rides motorcycles. His agent (Cynthia Nixon) is in the process of getting him yet another book deal, which is going to be something different than the memoir about his abusive father (Ed Harris), homelessness, teen rebellion, and drug abuse.
It’s all based on Stephen Elliott’s book, and it’s writer-director Pamela Romanowsky’s first film. Unfortunately, it has the look and feel of a first film (or a student film).
Elliott has writer’s block after his agent says he needs to produce a certain amount of pages each month. At least he isn’t sitting in a Starbucks writing on a notepad, and furiously crumpling up pieces of paper, or staring at that yellow legal pad wondering where to start. Especially since he’s the one that pitched a different idea of short stories. You’d think he’d have something in the canon, and we do see him coming up with some goofy opening lines (that all seem to be similar to his memoir).
Elliott quickly abandons this idea, and wanting to follow in the footsteps of Truman Capote, starts covering one of the biggest trials. That involves rich tycoon Hans Reiser (Christian Slater) who is accused of killing his wife and hiding the body. One of the reasons Elliott is so interested is the fact that it seems to mirror his own life. Or does it? We see a man show up at one of the book signings that quickly casts doubts over everything Elliott has written previously.
At the trial, he meets a newspaper writer (Amber Heard), and they jump into a relationship.
There’s no denying the power in scenes with Franco and Harris going at each other. The movie just isn’t a cohesive, or believable, story. For example, there’s a moment where Heard’s character realizes he’s into kinky sex, and he’s having it with other women. She stays in that relationship, and the movie becomes “50 Shades of Crap.” Elliott is insisting on being choked by the girlfriend, and I was kind of hoping she’d succeed in suffocating him.
The movie’s rather disjointed, and you end up watching a lot of unlikable characters in implausible situations. The whole thing feels forced.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have a few profound moments here and there, and it does hold your interesting most of the time.
If it sounds like your cup of tea, head over to the Digital Gym. That’s the only place it’s playing in town.
I’m giving it 1 ½ stars out of 5.