A Million Little Pieces

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Sam Taylor-Johnson

Starring

Aaron Taylor-Johnson Charlie Hunnam Odessa Young

Anticipation.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s directorial career has been uneven but interesting.

Enjoyment.

A decent enough set-up, but refuses to go anywhere interesting.

In Retrospect.

Drugs are bad.

A hackneyed journey through rehab with Aaron Taylor-Johnson trying his best with thin material.

My kink involves butting into private conversations to tell people that they’re wrong: the first Fifty Shades of Grey movie is not a violent affront to good taste. It is, in fact, a subversive screen adaptation of a piece of pulp erotica, made by a filmmaker looking to land her personal stamp on frankly weak material without it looking too conspicuous.

Sam Taylor-Johnson found fame as a visual artist, but has since shifted into film and TV directing. She married Aaron Johnson (née), the star of her directorial debut Nowhere Boy, and the pair now collaborate once more on A Million Little Pieces, a film about the physical and emotional toil of entering (and staying in) rehab.

Sadly, that subversive edge is not to be found in this vanilla-flavoured adaptation of James Frey’s 2003 bestseller detailing the author’s long, dark journey to combat extreme alcohol and drug abuse that left his body on the cusp of shutdown at the tender age of 23. Aaron Taylor-Johnson steps up as the fraying Fray, cranking up the tears-’n’-snot levels to maximum misery, and attempting to justify why we should want to see this self-abusing dipshit pull through to the other side.

Initially, the film looks and feels fine. There’s a brief, pre-credits set up which sees our scruffy hitting absolute rock bottom after some naked slam dancing in a smokey doss house that ends with him swan diving off the porch. Next thing we know he’s been strapped into a plane seat and is winging his way back to Chicago for another attempt at rehabilitation – maybe the last shot before his body putters out completely. He quickly gels with the various oddballs at the facility though finds it tough to stick to the stringent house rules.

And you’re watching the film and you’re waiting. Waiting for the ball to drop and reveal its true motives. Something to undercut this soft edge, or these scenes of agonising self-improvement that we’ve seen a million times before in a million different movies. Where’s the twist, the one thing that will justify the film’s existence and its addition to an already bustling sub genre comprised of mainly TV movie filler. And… it never arrives. It plays out this maudlin story with the straightest bat possible, and the surprises are dangerously thin on the ground.

There are wisdom bombs a-plenty, mostly from the mouth of effete southern gang-banger Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton in a safari suit) and the booze-addicted, clarinet-playing judge with whom James shares a room. Giovanni Ribisi turns up as a predatory gay hustler who constantly attempts to rape James in a friendly way.

And even though we’re supposed to believe that our hero’s body is at the point total shutdown (not even novocaine for root canal surgery is permitted), Aaron Taylor-Johnson rocks up to the set direct from Muscle Beach like he’s just broken his bench press personal best. His abs are astonishing. He literally looks like he could do a triathlon right there and then. It’s a small detail, maybe, but makes it hard to worry about his wellbeing.

Published 28 Aug 2019

Tags: Aaron Taylor-Johnson Sam Taylor-Johnson

Anticipation.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s directorial career has been uneven but interesting.

Enjoyment.

A decent enough set-up, but refuses to go anywhere interesting.

In Retrospect.

Drugs are bad.

Related Reviews

Fifty Shades Freed

By Charles Bramesco

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan go out with a whimper in this mildly titillating trilogy capper.

review

Beautiful Boy

By Hannah Woodhead

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet play a father and son pushed to the edge in this tender drug addiction drama.

review LWLies Recommends

Nocturnal Animals

By Manuela Lazic

Tom Ford’s long-awaited follow-up to A Single Man is a gorgeous, wild and wholly frustrating affair.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design