Stephen Elliott's Inception-esque film about a film about a book proves to be one of the most pretentious films of our time- an over-the-top, grandiose retalliation to James Franco's adaptation of his memoir which thinks more of its blown up intellect than its appeal.
About halfway through Stephen Elliot’s After Adderall, its eponymous lead character’s roommate, Sarah says (for maybe the hundredth time), something so abstract and ambiguous, play-acting as profound wisdom by masking its utter triviality, before walking off, letting Stephen’s soft, confused cry of ‘but what does that even mean?’ fall to her heels. It’s the only, only piece of dialogue in the film that can come close to the prestige of the label of ‘profound’, and for the sole reason that ‘but what does that even mean?’ is the perfect, and only way to accurately describe the film’s agonizing entirety. And believe me when I say, I am bitterly refraining from any exaggeration.
Taking its inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s Inception, apparently, After Adderall can be described, at its most simple level, as a film about a film about a book. It’s all turned full circle by starring and directed by its author, Stephen Elliot, as – this is the biggie – Stephen Elliot. I know. Gasp. And if Inception meets Birdman meets Saturday Night Live’s ‘High School Theatre Show’ sketch, isn’t enough to convince you, then just wait until it gets all self-referential to the point of severe anxiety-inducing exasperation. I’d think about taking a few Adderall myself to combat the heart-racing palpitations as the film’s 77 minutes grew ever the longer as every minute ticked by, but I’d fear for the inevitable flashbacks that it would induce at the mere mention of its name.
So, okay, maybe a little exaggeration.
It follows Stephen as he goes about dealing with, among other things, his memoir ‘The Adderall Diaries’, being adapted for the big screen, bought by and starring James Franco, and his subsequent exclusion from its process by the big-shots. It’s an event that drives the film’s blurb, trailer and the first, maybe, ten minutes of the actual film. Once that’s over, it becomes merely an anchor for the plot to fleetingly return to as it sails away on an innumerable amount of tangents, and the relationship between Stephen and Sarah begins to take hold. As does Mickaela Tombrock’s (Sarah) frustratingly stilted performance on my patience. Never has such a stilted script met such a bland actress as in After Adderall, though I’m quite sure that anyone would drift into the glassy-eyed boredom Tombrock pulls off so well if given such sickening pieces of dialogue to heave through.
What results is a hefty concoction of pretentious drivel that tries to be ingeniously important without having even nearly the right foundation for doing so. In fact, it just seems a little like an angry retalliation against Franco’s adaptation that tries to out-alienate its audience with as many abstract layers as possible. It’s even shot completely in black and white, if you can believe it. And with the sense of it acting more as a student film than anything else, it’s worth saying that there are student films better than this, we have filmmakers here at Southampton who do and have done better than this. Skip the stilted self-referentiality and call them up next time you need a filler, eh Raindance?
After Adderall, directed by Stephen Elliott, is being shown as part of the 2016 Raindance Film Festival. Further information about the festival including screening times and ticket information can be found here.