TIFF Review: 'A Million Little Pieces' Is Comfort Food for Low Expectations

Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Juliette Lewis, Charlie Hunnam

BY Josiah HughesPublished Sep 13, 2018

There's a fascinating movie to be made about James Frey's A Million Little Pieces — the larger-than-life memoir that was proven to be false, roasted by Oprah and repackaged as fiction — but Sam Taylor-Johnson has instead opted to stick with a standard adaptation of the book.
As a result, she's created a familiar film that plays out like The Fault in Our Stars for grown-ass people. Think of it as young adult fiction for the normal kind of adults.
After a quick flash of a Mark Twain quote that winks at Frey's penchant for embellishment, the film sets off proper with James (Aaron Taylor-Johnson in full Oscar campaign mode) swinging his dong around a crack den. From there he bottoms out, so his brother checks him into a rehab centre in Minnesota.
While detoxing, James slowly but surely meets a motley crew of characters, including a moustachioed dandy (Billy Bob Thornton), a lovesick alternative roommate (Giovanni Ribisi), an empathetic therapist (Juliette Lewis) and a forbidden love interest (Odessa Young). As we learn each character's backstory, we're reminded of Frey's lies in the source material — there's no way any group of people could have this many over-the-top backstories. They're quite literally unbelievable.
As a result, the film settles into a melodramatic yet mediocre tone that won't turn many heads, but is still pleasant enough to watch. Aaron Taylor-Johnson acts his heart out, and there are plenty of nice scenes that go down smooth. It's a comfort watch that will deliver if you lower your expectations.

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