James Franco is a Jack of all trades (you know the rest). Or he’s just another prodigy who can surprisingly act, direct, write, produce, and paint. Is Franco a novelist at heart? According to Los Angeles Times, his first short story collection Palo Alto is no work of art. The actor’s second short story/essay collection (or more like his novel debut) Actors Anonymous is out, freshly published on October 12th and it has been received with mixed to negative reviews. It’s not just critics that are dissing Franco’s newest writing project, but also readers who went and expressed their rage and written their reviews online, slamming the young actor and calling his novel “a mess.”
Actors Anonymous is Franco’s auto-celebrity, satirical, debut novel. It is based loosely on the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The book is less no more a novel than his first book Palo Alto was. Actors Anonymous is more like a collection of short stories, lyrical essays, emails, hilarious footnotes and Franco’s own musings on himself, Hollywood and other actors. The book is told from -mostly- the point of view of deluded losers and their adventures on getting high, drinking and having lots of sex. The book features Franco’s favorite subject: late actor River Phoenix, as a ghost.
Franco has used River Phoenix before in his nonlinear, two-part documentary Unfinished. In this project, Franco reunited with Milk‘s -where Franco starred alongside Sean Penn- director Gus Van Sant to show exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from Van Sant’s 1991 indie My Own Private Idaho which starred late River Phoenix as a street hustler who suffered narcolepsy. The movie was a favorite among critics. Most of them praised Pheonix’s performance and praised Van Sant’s efforts to achieve the “drifting sensation” that the movie’s hero went through. Unfinished‘s two parts were titled: Endless Idaho and My Own Private River which focused mainly on Phoenix’s unique acting style shown through his facial expressions, famous brooding stare and subtle playfulness. Unfinished premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.
The novel/short story collection however fails to deliver more than just random ramblings by a star, according to critics. Some go as far as saying that readers who enjoy it would either be die-hard James Franco fans or gossip enthusiasts.
Steve Donoghue, writer and editor, mentioned that the book’s strongest sections: “McDonald’s I” and “McDonald’s II,” are interrupted by the author butting in and whining about his worst movie projects and personal failures.
Other critics praised Franco’s style, especially in touching stories like “Faith & Victory” or realistic depictions of wannabe actors’ insecurities and indulgence in “Peace.”
When it comes to readers, most of them downright slammed Franco’s book. On Goodreads -a social cataloging website where people share their reviews, ratings and annotations of books- many reviewers wrote that if it weren’t for Franco’s star status, a book that uninteresting and poorly written wouldn’t have been published.
Christie -a Goodreads user- wonders if Franco is deluded about his acting ability or if he’s just being satirical about himself?
Jake -another Goodreader- however gives the book **** out of five stars, stating that the book is overall enjoyable if you are not easily offended.
Don’t judge a book by its reviews and grab a copy of James Franco’s Actors Anonymous or simply tell him to find another outlet for his creativity, just not writing.
Written by: Jaylan Salah