Aaron Taylor Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton and Odessa Young star in this Sam Taylor-Johnson directed adaption of the controversial James Frey book about his battle with addiction. For those that don’t know, James Frey has been accused of fabricating much of A Million Little Pieces which has obviously tarnished his and the books reputation. At best, this film is generic and boring, at its worst, it’s actively unpleasant to watch and confusing. Giovanni Ribisi, Charlie Hunman and David Dastmalchia also join us on this no so fun ride.
Aaron Taylor Johnson portrays James Frey, a man battling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as struggling to deal with the break up of a relationship. After dancing naked at a house party, Frey clumsily falls from the first floor balcony onto a car below and when wakes up, dazed and extremely hungover to find himself on a plane to Minnesota. His brother Bob, played by Charlie Hunman, picks him up at the airport and brings him to a rehab clinic. There he meets a number of different people which shape his transformation.
The Taylor-Johnson’s had a lot of freedom with this film and were not too constricted by loyalty to the book. However, other than odd scenes of Aaron Taylor-Johnson dancing and breaking things in fits of rage, they really didn’t take advantage of this freedom. It all felt a little bit trown together. There was lots of odd scenes that, while visually impressive, didn’t really add anything to the film and didn’t contribute to the narrative whatsoever. A minute long scene of a distressed Frey angrily kicking at some form of brown liquid in the corridor of a rehabilitation clinic is an extreme example of this. Of course, this particular scene is happening in Frey’s head but it’s difficult to pinpoint it’s purpose or meaning. Another two minute scene of James in a dentist chair getting his teeth fixed was also rather bizzare and unnecessary . I almost felt like Sam Taylor-Johnson just put in scenes to make us all wince. If that really was her motivation, than the film was a huge success.
The layout and timing of the film was also off. Nearly all of the significant characters were introduced to us at the beginning of the film meaning there was no new personalities to freshen things up for the remainder, and we really could have done with some freshening up. It didn’t take long for Frey’s interesting story to become stale and neither Aaron Taylor Johnson’s solid (if a little over the top) performance nor his wifes direction were able to rescue it. A film about this topic should be emotional and uplifting but as an audience member we felt frozen out of Frey’s story and left with a cold, distant feeling towards his suffering.
As I stated Aaron Taylor Johnson was quite good while Ribisi’s and Dastmalchians performances deserved better. Odessa Young and Dash Mihok were decent as well while Billy Bob Thornton is always a welcome appearance on our screens. However, they didn’t have much chemistry together. James’ and Leonard’s relationship was ‘nice’ and likable but never really felt like the genuine and meaningful one it should have been. The screenplay was pretty poor and the dialogue felt unrealistic at times which obviously impacted our experience of the film as a whole.
If you like confusing, trippy scenes without any obvious relevance to the story than this is the film for you but if you’re looking for a well made film with a solid and believable story than i’d steer clear. A Million Little Pieces is a well intentioned but ultimately extremely flawed film that manages to be both derivative and bewildering at the same time.