"A Million Little Pieces" Falls Apart

Title: A Million Little Pieces
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Odessa Young, Giovanni Ribisi, Juliette Lewis, Charlie Hunnam
Studio: Momentum Pictures

Genre(s): Action
Rated: R (For drug material, language throughout, some graphic nudity and sexual content)

Become a member!

In 2003 an unknown author became the center of an unexpected firestorm when he released his memoir "A Million Little Pieces." The book chronicled his life as a drug addict who overcame his addiction to become sober despite all the odds against him. With graphic detail on what it was like being in a rehab facility (coupled with some truly interesting people he met there), the book couldn't help but be the talk of the town. Oprah Winfrey even selected it as one of her famous "Oprah  Book Club" picks, which raised the profile further.

With all that attention though it meant that news outlets would start fact-checking the book. Once that happened it became clear that the author wasn't being as honest with everyone as he claimed, and soon a public shaming commenced while a planned film adaptation by Warner Bros. was quietly scrapped. At the end of the day though, whether the book was true or not, it WAS a captivating story! Even if a more discerning reader could probably smell the BS from a mile away, there was little denying that the novel (as it was now being classified) was a genuine page-turner. Under those circumstances, a movie still made sense to pursue.

We would finally get that movie more than ten years after the fact, however, I'm sorry to say that where the book was a page-turner, the movie is just unpleasant. Granted, there was probably going to be SOME of that built into the concept! After all, you don't follow the story of an alcoholic, drug addict who is on death's door and expect to have a good time. What is odd about the film is the direction Sam Taylor-Johnson (director of "Nowhere Man" and the upcoming "Back to Black") decided to take this in. 

Reading the book and probably realizing that it might not be a lot of fun to watch a guy struggling with withdrawals, she opted to make the movie more visually interesting than anything the book suggested. This includes weird hallucinations, random screaming matches, and flashbacks to events our lead character James Frey (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) probably shouldn't be able to remember. In this film, James has visions of slipping in crap that inexplicably pours from the wall, must endure the pain of having teeth pulled without novocaine (a scene that was equally brutal in the book), and just being a hopeless guy all around.

The most interesting dilemma comes from him refusing to comply with most of the 12-step program because he doesn't believe in God. Which, granted, he doesn't HAVE to believe in a higher power, but why does the movie think it can convince us that James was able to overcome his addiction on his own terms when that clearly wasn't working before?! As the movie went on, the situations became so silly that I wonder if people would have been fooled into thinking most of this was real had it been made into a film first.

This subject matter has been dealt with before and successfully. Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream" is the best example I can think of. However, where that film was about how drugs caused people to spiral into a nightmare they couldn't get out of, " A Million Little Pieces" wants to tell a redemption story. Sadly, you start missing the point of that redemption story when being at rock bottom is more visually interesting than being sober, and in movie form the BS is much easier to smell than in book form, which makes for an overall useless experience.