Steve Carell is one busy guy. “Beautiful Boy” was one of three movies he put out in 2018 and his sixth in two years. The film also stars Timothée Chalamet, a good young actor who has essentially become the new Jennifer Lawrence. You know what I mean – a hot young newcomer who gets loads of critical attention and awards nominations for pretty much anything he does…at least for a few years.
I don’t want to cut Chalamet short. He is a good actor. Maybe not to a level matching the overflowing praise, but good nonetheless. For proof look no further than “Beautiful Boy”. His portrayal of a drug addicted 18-year-old calls for a big performance that grabs most of the attention. It’s a role that easily could have went the wrong way. But hats off to Chalamet for keeping his performance under control.
At its core “Beautiful Boy” is a heartbreaking father/son story based on the memoirs of author David Sheff and his son Nic. Carell portrays Sheff, a father broadsided by the discovery that his teenage son Nic (Chalamet) is a drug addict. The two have always had a close loving relationship but the drug abuse drives a wedge between them. So as Nic tries to break the grip of addiction David tries to deal with the painful reality that his relationship with his son may never be the same.
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen and adapted by Van Groeningen and Luke Davies, “Beautiful Boy” has all the ingredients it needs to tell this story and it does a good job dividing its time between father and son. In many ways this is more about David and the problem of hope turning to naiveté. He believes that love and encouragement will cure his son and as a writer he has always had the right words. Reality shows him different. Carell hits most of the right beats, but there are moments, particularly the emotionally heavy ones, that aren’t quite as strong.
At the same time they wisely don’t overdo it with Nic. He is a very believable representation of a young addict in part because of Chalamet, but just as much due to the the script. Flashbacks reveal a bright teen full of joy yet not always helped by his father’s decisions. But even as he unravels the script never loses sight of his deep human qualities and emotions. This makes the looming uncertainty all the more devastating.
Strangely not all of the film is as engrossing as the performances or the story material. It’s hard to put a finger on why. It’s not that it lacks a realistic edge or the characters fall short. It’s more to do with the rhythm of the storytelling which is a bit uneven in the second half. But it doesn’t undo the film’s ability to evoke empathy and heartache. And in the end that’s what the movie needed to do the most.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS
Relieved to see a positive review for this. Of course people are entitled to their opinion, and i think the criticisms over pacing/story structure hold weight, but I really didn’t understand the negativity re: “pointlessness.” The central relationship broke my heart. I was a mess at the end.
I’m a bit surprised at the criticisms as well. For me, the central relationship was authentic from start to finish. And that is the centerpiece. The story hinges on that relationship and I had no trouble with it at all. What did you think of Steve Carell? I thought it was a good performance but did feel that he struggled a bit with the bigger emotional scenes. How about you?
I can see your issues with Carell. There was that one scene where he just kind of loses it and I felt that was a little weak, but overall I really thought this was yet another different side to him. I didn’t really see Michael Scott at all in this. But that’s me.
The reason I asked is because I was wondering if I was being a little too hard on him. This really is his character’s story which means Carell has a big load to carry.
I still want to see this because I like Timothee Chalamet although I wouldn’t call him the new J-Law since he didn’t immediately take part in some film franchise… yet. Plus, he’s not as insufferable as J-Law.
The J-Law comparison was more aimed at how critics and awards season voters see him. I honestly don’t think he is at fault at all. But sometimes Hollywood does like to fawn over fresh young talent. He is really good here. I think you’ll really be impressed with his performance.
I liked this, but wasn’t in love with it. It’s just perfectly fine. I really liked the cast, even the child actors were really good.
Yep. I know what you mean. I thought it had a ton of heart but there was something about the storytelling that felt a bit off.
Very different to the other (WordPress) review of this film I read.
Oh really? How so?
The other one – by a Rotten Tomatoes critic, actually (a WordPress blogger whom I follow) was rather negative.
I’ve seen several different takes on this movie. I’ve read some who loved it and others who really didn’t go for it. I liked it quite a bit but didn’t love it.
Fair enough. Each to their own.