The harrowing trauma of addiction and recovery can make gripping literature, even more so if combined with an overly dramatic licence. When the real-life tale of addiction was picked apart after a lot of the details of the account was not matching the public record. Leading to embarrassment for the publishers and the novels advocates who thought it was true. In 2018, the contentious novel was recreated warts and all, into a cinematic story of the road of recovery, and the people you meet every day in A Million Little Pieces.
Self-destructive addict James wakes up on an aeroplane with no recollection of where he is going. He soon finds his brother, who escorts him into an exclusive rehabilitation centre, in Chicago. First, he finds life in the facility challenging crashing with the religious staff, strict rules, and bothersome patients. But once the initial resistance wears, he starts opening up, with the help of a book of Taoist teachings and friendly faces he meets inside. But will the methods and relationships that were picked up on the road to recovery last?
Based on the controversially semi-autobiographical novel by James Fey, the film has no statement on what is true, merely adapting the tale as is. You do occasionally wonder as the more dramatic elements of the story play out, but I found I got drawn into the story too deeply to even notice. Some of the famed low parts of the novel are notably depicted here; the famous scene with the dentist is one unflinching example, though it is countered with some positive emotions too. The characters that James encounters in the centre are a collage of personalities, Such as the paternal Leonard who became the subject of the subsequent novel make up a lot of the heart of the film, with his mentorship of James along with the forbidden love affair with fellow patient Lilly injects the film with some added romance to round off this assortment.
Though the film is not just raw depictions of withdrawing and recovery, it does occasionally depict fantastical scenes (I assume from the book). This works especially well in a sequence where he recounts some of his past transgressions. A Million Little Pieces also runs a gamut of emotions on the road to recovery, pain, loneliness, anger, love happiness, and even some clarity about his situation all perfectly communicated by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
A Million Little Pieces is a gripping story, and probably one I would have avoided if it were not for the famed dispute around the book. The acting is solid and enjoyable, through the highs and lows of an honestly troubling affliction, it takes the audience on a journey, and delivers a genuinely feel-good picture. By focusing on the written word and executing it well, A Million Little Pieces prints more than just the legend.
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