The film’s pervasive flashbacks to childhood abuse and misbehavior come to feel manipulative and unnecessary.
Emilio Aragón’s film is a star vehicle in the strictest sense.
It functions under the delusion that subtext will magically appear if you linger on a character long enough, and the significance of most of its scenes is nothing if not inscrutable.
James Franco’s readiness in approaching famously abstract source material certainly doesn’t translate well into his directorial formalism, or, more appropriately, lack of formalism.
Franco’s aesthetic is ugly and ambling, not so much because of its brownish-gray monochrome, but because it registers like the jerky result of a college kid wielding a DV cam.