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Adaptation of James Frey's rehab memoir doesn't take into account the controversy over the book's authenticity, resulting in a fine, but completely familiar, story
A MILLION LITTLE PIECES SPEC D: Sam Taylor-Johnson. U.S. 113 min. Sep 10, 8:45 pm, Ryerson Sep 11, 9 am, TBLB 1. See listing. Rating: NNN
James Frey’s 2003 rehab memoir was infamously repackaged as fiction a few years later, after it turned out the author had embellished or invented many of the details about his stay in a rehab facility. The film version, co-written by director Taylor-Johnson and her husband Aaron – who also stars as Frey – simply adapts the book as written, ignoring everything that came afterward.
It’s a strange choice, since the novel’s publication and the subsequent controversy over its authenticity would seem to be an interesting way to set A Million Little Pieces apart from all the other rehab movies that precede it – your Clean And Sobers, your 28 Dayses, and so forth.
By sticking to Frey’s text, the Taylor-Johnsons limit themselves to the same clichés we know by heart: the rebellious hero, the patient therapist (Juliette Lewis, underused), the world-weary veteran (Billy Bob Thornton, styled as Burt Reynolds for some reason), the unlikely love interest (Odessa Young), and so forth.
It’s well-acted and -directed, but it’s also completely familiar – which is frustrating, because we know there’s a better story just outside the frame.