Beautiful Boy (2018) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Drug use, sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Steve Carell as David Sheff
Timothée Chalamet as Nicholas “Nic” Sheff
Maura Tierney as Karen Barbour
Amy Ryan as Vicki Sheff
Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Teenager Nicolas Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) seems to have it all with good grades and being an actor, artist, athlete and editor of the school newspaper. When Nic’s addiction to meth threatens to destroy him, his father (Steve Carell) does whatever he can to save his son and family.

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Beautiful Boy is a movie I had been hearing about for a while, with it seeming to be a big awards contender. It was a movie based on a true story about drug addiction with Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet involved. When it came out the reception was generally positive, with some slightly mixed reactions, but the performances were highly praised. That’s probably a good summation about what I think of the overall movie, good performances but the rest of the movie is just sort of okay with some issues.

Beautiful Boy doesn’t feel like it was made with the intention to just win awards. You can feel like it came from a well intended place and was meaning to tell an important story about drug addiction. With that said, throughout it just constantly felt like something was missing from the whole movie. It feels oddly mechanical and emotional-less, like it’s trying to resemble an emotional and powerful movie but it doesn’t end up genuinely being that what it aspired to be. It just slipped into being melodramatic a lot of the time, and not in a good way. Even if we put outside the whole emotional feelings not really hitting, there are some issues. Despite it being about drug addiction, it doesn’t really provide any insight into the mind of a drug addict, sure one of the main characters is a drug addict but we don’t really get to know much from his point of view. It doesn’t stretch to being anything more than any other movies about drug addiction. It basically extends to “drugs make him feel better, he is addicted to them but they are killing him” and that’s all we really get from it. Maybe it’s because we get an outsider view about it, with the film from the perspective of the father (Steve Carell) than the drug addict son (Timothée Chalamet), and I think that really worked against it. After watching the movie, I was trying to think about what new things I’ve learned about drug addiction and all that and I realised there was really nothing. At 2 hours long it sort of dragged at points, it wasn’t boring but it does feel rather dull sometimes, and it was made worse by the fact that I didn’t care about what was going on.

The highlight of the movie is definitely the performances. Steve Carell has been having a more dramatic career ever since Foxcatcher back in 2014 and this is yet another solid performance from him. He is convincing enough in the role of a father trying to connect with his son who has these drug problems. Although I will admit, every time he raises his voice and yell (in certain dramatic scenes) I did hear Michael Scott from The Office and what was intended to be a heavily dramatic scene ended up being a little comedic instead. Timothée Chalamet is an actor I admit I haven’t been completely on board with. I think he’s fine enough but I wasn’t on the hype train for him that started when Call Me By Your Name happened. With that said he did give an impressive performance here. The supporting cast with Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan and others also contribute and play their part for the movie. I will say though that even with Carell and Chalamet’s performances being quite good though, it feels like they are being held back a little bit. Like they’re reduced to yelling really loud and having these big ‘acting’ moments rather (especially Carell), which I don’t think utilised the actors as well as they could’ve been.

I’m not familiar with Felix Van Groeningen but his direction works okay enough, nothing great though. Parts of it worked well, others not so much. The stand out part of the direction that really didn’t work at all however was the music. The music choices were really weird and work against the movie whenever when they were present. It really detracts from the mood of the movie and the scenes, any emotion that you may feel in the moment just disappears. Also like I was mentioning earlier, while I get the feeling that everyone was trying to be well intentioned with it, it does come across as being fake and ‘oscar baity’ (I often refrain from using that term but you can probably get what I mean by that).

Beautiful Boy doesn’t completely work as well as I think it was trying to. While it is a well intended movie about an important subject matter, it somehow comes across as being emotionally hollow and just doesn’t connect all that well. Not to mention some of the directing and writing decisions just really didn’t work in the film’s favour. If there’s any reason to watch the movie, its for the performances, particularly those of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, who do some great work here.

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