LFF 2018: Beautiful Boy
Just imagine being a parent to a child that is a drug addict. Beautiful Boy shows meth addiction and its recovery through the eyes of writer David Sheff (Steve Carrell), who watches his talented son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) as he struggles with his addiction. This is adapted from David & Nic Sheff’s memoirs and their real-life experiences.
Beautiful Boy does the hard job and shows the true horror of drug addiction, not only the damage it does to the user but also to their family and friends. It is hard to watch Nic’s plight. This isn’t just a film about taking drugs and the recovery which leads to a happy ending, this is the long and unflinching portrait of addiction.
This is a story of two sides – first Nic’s life with drugs, and the second is his father David’s and his attempts in trying to save his firstborn. The theme is set right from the first scene. David is asking advice about meth addiction and how can he help his son. The tone has been set.
Chalamet continues to show his talents (he really does remind me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio) and is the heartbeat of the picture. His slow and desperate fall is not only subtle but it also shows the respect to those that have been through it in real life. He is never over the top, showing he has done some research into the role. In less prepared hands this could have been a disaster. Steve Carrell offers strong support in yet another serious role. He does his best work when he has minimal dialogue. A terrific scene in a café (a location that means a lot to them both) offers the chance for the film to show its true colours and really show how good the two leads are. Nic clearly high on drugs is begging his Dad for money, and David can longer bring himself to help his son. It is truly heart-breaking.
It is a shame to report the supporting cast don’t have a lot to work with. David’s ex-wife Vicki (Amy Ryan) and his current wife Karen (Maura Tierney) characters are barely developed. Karen just paints and Vicki gets angry on the phone. That’s it.
Director Felix Van Groeningen has made of a few missteps. Some the editing feels a little rushed, and the timeline is littered with flashbacks and it gets a bit confusing of when its meant to be. It doesn’t help that Steve Carrell never ages. There are also a few pointless scenes, including a shower scene which is particularly odd and out of place. It is uncomfortably long. There are also issues with some scenes which feel like overly long montages with the music turned up to 11.
Sadly the film itself doesn’t match up to the two lead actors’ performances. Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet match each other every step of the way. Beautiful Boy is as heart-breaking as it is uplifting. It may not reach the heights it wants but thanks to the chemistry of the two leads it is worth a watch.