Jan 30, 2019
We’re back with the first of two reviews from our own Andrew Campbell. You can check out his regular slot on Fridays, when he gives a short review from one of the many films featured at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX. I always appreciate the help, especially for the flood of Golden Globe and Oscar films that could use a review. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @anrcampbell and search for his other reviews for the podcast at onemoviepunch.com using the Fantastic Fest blog tag.
Take it away, Andrew!
Hello film fans!
Andrew here. Normally I host the podcast on Fridays, covering a wide range of genre films out of Fantastic Fest. Come back later this week for my review of “Sleep Tight”, a creepy little story available on Netflix. Today, I’m pinch-hitting to cover a more mainstream film that deals with substance abuse and its effects on family. This film barely made a whisper in theaters and snuck its way on to Amazon Prime earlier this month. It’s worth a look before it slips through the cracks.
Today’s movie is “Boy Erased”, the 2018 biographical drama starring... wait, sorry, that’s not right, “Boy Erased” is the one where Lucas Hedges is forced into gay conversion therapy. Similar title, easy mistake, let’s go again.
Today’s movie is “Ben is Back”, the 2018 drama about a troubled teen dealing with drug addiction and his family’s struggle to help him. Starring Lucas Hedges as... now come on, that still isn’t it! The plot’s exactly right, but get me the one with Chalamet. Amateur hour around here...
Today’s movie is really “Beautiful Boy” (2018), the biographical drama directed by Felix van Groenigen, written for the screen by van Groenigen and Luke Davies, and based on the memoirs of father and son, David and Nic Sheff, played by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. Nic is addicted to a variety of drugs, graduating from marijuana and ecstasy to cocaine and crystal meth. The story unfolds from two separate perspectives: Nic the addict, fighting to stay clean and David the devoted father, struggling to hold onto his now adult son.
One of the things I liked most about this film is the way it jumps right into the story. Most movies dealing with addiction go great lengths to show the Good Kid slowly succumb to peer pressure and begin using drugs. Often, we see the very first time they smoke or shoot up. Not so here. We don’t meet Nic’s high school friends; we aren’t shown why he got on this path; we’re already there. It’s a poignant demonstration that drug addiction can happen to anyone for any number of reasons. What comes after Nic first admits his addiction to his father and step-mother is the more powerful, human story.
The acting in this film is stellar. I still view Steve Carell as a comedic actor, but he hasn’t really been in a mainstream comedy since Anchorman 2 in 2013. Now he alternates between paycheck films (notably, the “Despicable Me” franchise) and prestige pictures like “Foxcatcher”, “Last Flag Flying” and the recent “Welcome to Marwen” train wreck. Carell has shown his theatrical chops as far back as “Little Miss Sunshine” just over a decade ago, but has yet to win a major award for dramatic acting. Here he is perfectly cast as a loving father who is unable to focus on anything but his son’s plight, captured particularly well during a recital for one of David’s much younger children. Still, there are a few moments in the film where he yells and I can only see Brick Tamland.
Timothée Chalamet got the film’s lone Golden Globe nomination, and, though his performance is solid, it’s Carell that outshines him in the lead role. Maura Tierney delivers a solid, emotional performance as Nic’s stepmother, despite her role being rather limited. The script gives even less to Amy Ryan as David’s ex-wife and Nic’s mother, but seeing her with Carell is nice little “The Office” reunion.
What really got me with this film is the way the story connects to all parents. Through flashbacks, we see memories of moments so small and simple and genuine. David looks back, as any parent might in his situation, to wonder what missteps he might have made that would lead to his son’s eventual addiction. Though my children are far too young to be at-risk, I can absolutely identify with the innate sadness of the passage of time with one’s children. To some extent, it’s about losing control as your children age and seeing your ability to help guide their choices become diminished. But at a simpler level, I find it difficult scrolling back through photos and videos from even just a couple years ago seeing my children at a time in their lives that I will never get back. “Beautiful Boy” fully captures this bittersweet sentimentality.
“Beautiful Boy” is a moving true-life story of the dark effects of substance abuse on both the user and their family. Fans of addiction and recovery stories based on memoirs such as “The Basketball Diaries” will enjoy this film. Folks who enjoy sentimental films that deal with the pain of growing up such as “Boyhood” will appreciate this one as well.
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
One Movie Punch: 8.6/10
“Beautiful Boy” (2018) is rated R and is available on Amazon Prime Video!
Sleep Tight, everyone! Let’s talk on Friday.