Aaron Taylor-Johnson stars and Sam Taylor-Johnson directs, as A Million Little Pieces comes to the screen – here’s our review.
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Odessa Young, Billy Bob Thornton
Release date: 30th August
Reviewer: Simon Brew
Little question here that you’re getting some of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s finest screen work to date. An adaptation of James Frey’s contentious memoir (its accuracy has been heavily questioned), A Million Little Pieces is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, with its star and helmer co-penning the screenplay. Aaron Taylor-Johnson takes the role of Frey, a young writer when we meet him, being taken to a drug treatment centre by his brother (played by Charlie Hunnam). There, he’s the latest in a series of characters we’ve seen in cinema who has to get clean, pretty much or else.
In the centre, we find a bunch of people from a host of backgrounds, all faced with their own demons. The prime focus of the film is on Frey, though, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s commitment to his performance is unquestionable. It’s a strong piece of acting work. Believable and haunting, he’s the prime reason to watch the film. Also very much in the plus column is Billy Bob Thornton’s Leonard, a background character at first, but one of the few who the screenplay fleshes out and adds depth to. You get a fine performance from Odessa Young too as Lilly, a young woman also battling through rehab, to whom Frey is attracted. In fact, the film segues quite often into following their troubled romance.
The challenge in mounting a film such as this, though, is what can it add? Stories of rehab have fuelled some really strong pieces of cinema in the past, and there needs to be a real angle or interesting character to break through (look at how Girl Interrupted overcame One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest comparisons thanks to some excellent characters). A Million Little Pieces, whilst admirable, struggles with both.
Even before considering the troubled source material, the film’s prime strength remains in its performances, rather than the movie itself. It’s well put together, as you’d expect from Sam Taylor-Johnson, but it’s also hard to recommend. Why did James Frey fall into addiction, and what were the demons he needed to really defeat? The film struggles with that, and struggles too to find an angle of its own. It’s got many qualities, but who’s it for? I couldn’t really tell you.