Beautiful Boy

 

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Drug addiction is an old, old story for Hollywood but the latest contribution to the genre still has no easy answers.

   

Beautiful Boy

Oakley Bull, Maura Tierney, Timothée Chalamet, Christian Convery and Steve Carell 

 

In Beautiful Boy, Steve Carell plays David Sheff who has a seemingly happy home life married to his second wife. This might be a contributing factor to the reasons why his son Nic (Timothḗe Chalamet) has gone off the rails. Nic at 18 is a student but, despite having an enviably stable family with two siblings he adores, begins an addiction to alcohol and then drugs, finally cooking up his own home-made crystal meth. His father David is bewildered and, as a celebrated journalist and career researcher, tries to find a reason why. The relationship between father and son is, on the surface, a good one, despite the ever-present problem of Nic’s addiction which, even with the boy’s constant promises to come clean, never goes away.
 
Director Felix van Groeningen and his co-author Luke Davies have based their screenplay on the two books that David and Nic wrote about their experiences, so that the events depicted have some kind of truth about them. However, why Nic became an addict is never really satisfactorily explained, but that may be because nobody ever really knows the causes of drug addiction. The film actually concentrates more on David who is loath to give up on Nic until he finally cracks and admits he can no longer help his son.

If the answers are not there, the film still fields two very strong but differing performances from Steve Carell and Timothḗe Chalamet. David is quiet, composed and contemplative, whereas his wild child of a son is all over the place, going from the highs of addiction to the depths of despair with increasing speed. Good performances also come from Amy Ryan as Nic’s birth mother, and Maura Tierney as his stepmother. Without any specially composed music, the film relies on popular performers (John Lennon, David Bowie, Neil Young, Perry Como, Mogwai, Massive Attack, Nirvana, etc) and Gṓrecki’s Third Symphony that provide a commentary on the action in a film that only partially succeeds in offering a solution to the problem it posits.

MICHAEL DARVELL    

Cast: Steve Carell, Timothḗe Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, LisaGay Hamilton, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Jack Dylan Grazer.

Dir Felix van Groeningen, Pro Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Brad Pitt, Screenplay Luke Davies and Felix van Groeningen, based on the books Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, Ph Ruben Impens, Pro Des Ethan Tobman and Jennifer Lukehart, Ed Nico Leunen, Music Coordinator Henry van Roden, Costumes Emma Potter.

Amazon Studios/Big Indie Pictures/Plan B Entertainment-StudioCanal.
120 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 18 January 2019. Cert. 15.