Stephen Elliot (James Franco) thinks his father is the villain of his story: from the constant domestic abuse to cheating that he believes were the cause of his mother’s death.
However, those bad stories aren’t that maligned after he transform them into books, combined with creativity and editing. He turned those depressing memories into publishing contracts that allows him to live in a fancy apartment and whatever he needs to keep his juice flowing.
As a writer with dark past, Stephen overcomes his ‘writer’s block’ with unusual tricks. Besides indulging himself with adderals and other drugs, he can’t escape from his addiction with masochistic sex, assisted by some prostitutes.
Of course the extreme sex taste destroys his relationship with a fearless and independent New York Times reporter, Lana. She left him immediately after Stephen requests to choke him in bed until he passes out. Then, while Lana gets panicked, he suddenly wakes up and tells her ‘I love you.’
The writer’s block seem to swell as Stephen’s father, Neil (Ed Harris) crushes his book reading and tells everyone those stories are bullshits. Neil doesn’t deny that he is a bad father, but Stephen was a troubled and self-destructive kid who could damage his surroundings.
Things get tough as Stephen loses his contract after failing to meet the deadlines because he was busy following a trial of Hans Reiser, a man who’s accused of killing his wife and mother of their two kids. I think Stephen tries to dig deeper about daddy’s issues and he finds resemblance on the case. But instead of focusing on giving his father a chance to make amends, he blows it all because he’s accustomed to edit memories and attempt to kill his own father in his books.
However, the story of Reiser isn’t developed enough and seems incoherent with the movie plot. The scenes of Stephen and Neil arguing over who’s the demon and who’s the victim are well-acted, and fairly depict how complex their relationship and memories are.
Overall, as someone who always fancies films with writer as the main lead, I quite enjoyed it. It could’ve been better if the movie could focus on Stephen’s recovery from traumatic childhood and how writing or story telling could change his life.
“Why are we so quick to see memory as unreliable in other people but never in ourselves?
I know I’m guilty of editing. I think we all are, if we’re honest with ourselves.
My father and I have argued for so long over who was the victim and who was the villain.
That it never occurred to me to ask whether I wanted to be either of those things. Or which roles I’ve played in someone else’s narrative.
Maybe it’s for the best that things fell apart. I want to cast myself as someone else this time. Someone better.”
~ Stephen Elliot