A Million Little Pieces – Film Review
by Frank L
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson
Writers: James Frey, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (screenplay)
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Charlie Hunnam, Ryan Hurst
The film is based on the book of the same title by James Frey which was originally promoted as a memoir but then re-marketed as a semi-fictional novel. With such a disputed pedigree it is best not to worry too much about the veracity of the story but to accept what is being portrayed for what it is. It is the story of a young man, James Frey (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), as he battles in a rehabilitation clinic with his drug addiction.
The film begins with James Frey at a party dancing with exuberant body movements in the process of which he rids himself of the restrictions created by his clothes. It is an arresting opening scene. From that ‘high’ the story leads into Frey’s sojourn in the rehabilitation clinic. It is a place with many rules with which the residents must comply. Needless to say these cause difficulties for Frey. Another inmate Lilly (Odessa Young) has also difficulty with the rules. During the course of the film other characters are introduced, who are at varying stages of recovery, together with the staff who by various stratagems try to bring some sort of balance into these lives of see-sawing emotional chaos.
One of the rules, the reason for which is not made clear, is there is a prohibition on communication between the opposite sexes. James and Lilly do to a certain extent and that creates a whole series of other tensions. James also makes friends with Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton) a father-like figure in the clinic who tries to provide him with wisdom arising from his own addictive experience.
However, because of the self-obsessive nature of an addict, it is hard to create a story of wider appeal. The self-obsession tends to crowd out everything else. In addition, the regime employed in this clinic, with little or no explanation of any particular rule, has its own inward looking obsessions.
That said, the performance of Johnson-Taylor is impressive throughout while Young creates a tragic and fragile Lilly. While the rehabilitation programme of the clinic may work for some and not for other addicts there is not any analysis as to what is at the core of the programme. There are many films about addicts and rehab and really this adds little new to the canon!