James Franco stars as American author Stephen Elliott in this crime thriller adapted from the writer's memoirs. Riding the crest of fame and adoration after the surprise success of his latest book, about his traumatic childhood, Stephen is abruptly brought back to reality by his estranged father Neil (Ed Harris) who reappears to deny most of the story. Having agreed a deal with a publisher for a follow-up novel, Stephen finds himself weighed down by writer's block while dealing with his tormenting father's sudden reappearance. In his self-loathing and drug-dependant state, Stephen throws himself studiously into the crime case of Hans Reiser (Christian Slater), a wealthy businessman accused of murdering his wife. During the trial, Stephen reflects upon his own childhood and finds himself romantically involved with New York Times reporter Lana (Amber Heard).