Based off the memoirs of father and son, David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy follows the turbulent and strained relationship between a parent and their distant, wayward child who succumbs to ultimate drug addiction.
An actor’s piece with terrific performances and a heartfelt tale to be felt powerfully within its parental audience, Beautiful Boy is a hard-hitting piece of work – the perfect drama for award’s season. Now, I don’t feel judging a film released during award’s season is fair to be more picky and specific with, because in my opinion, a film is a film and in a few years time anything released during a specific season will be thought as as just another 2018 film – nothing more, nothing less. So accordingly with my moral code in reviewing films, I shall treat Beautiful Boy no differently in my opinions… and, to that point, my general opinion of this film is that it is, well, pretty good.
Although the acting may be fantastic in this film, Beautiful Boy is not a great film and especially not a perfect film. It operates under two set goals: the first being to achieve the best performances out of its actors as possible and the second, to play itself as a bit of a warning to its audiences about drug addiction. Beautiful Boy is not exactly a film I would call overly thematic or deeply in touch with its themes, but more-or-less treats its ideas and concepts as more warning signals than anything else. I would like to touch base again on the movie’s work to unravel its ideas and concepts but firstly the biggest element that requires discussion is the acting.
Beautiful Boy has some of the best acting talent in 2018, period. Timothée Chalamet (at only 22, may I add) has not only captured the attention of filmmakers, critics and audiences alike with his 2017 turn in Call Me By Your Name but now has undertaken a role of such immense power and dedication in Beautiful Boy. Chalamet’s portrayal of the drug addicted vagabond that is Nic and his traumatic evolution over the course of the film appears as an unflinching, tortuous experience for all who view his trials and tribulations… especially his father, David, portrayed by an outstanding Steve Carell.
I adore Steve Carell. He’s one of those actors you forget is capable of commanding the screen in both drama and comedy, but again, in Beautiful Boy, Carell proves how accomplished an actor he truly is. As much as Chalamet is highly impressive in his work, a more seasoned actor like Carell almost outshines him, purely in gravitas and presence alone. Sequences between the two actors as they just rifle off dialogue between one another never fails to fascinate and intrigue as both Carell and Chalamet make every line so damn important and fulfilling in the entirety of the narrative.
I also very much liked how this film was edited, cutting between the happier times with the bleaker times and so on. The cinematography assisted greatly in the contrast between light and dark from within the Sheff’s lives as the whole family were depicted to struggle equally in Nic’s addiction. However the moments that really sold Beautiful Boy on raw feeling and rich emotion alone would have to be the scenes between the characters of David and Nic, laced throughout time, following both the good and the bad. Really impactful stuff.
Although, the reason for which I cannot entirely recommend Beautiful Boy on all accounts as a great film comes down to the fact the movie contains an inability to find certain focus or, more accurately, anchor itself to what it actually wants the audience to follow. Despite the narrative appearing effective in its nonlinear structure, the story in general just felt rather repetitive and tiring after a while. Yes, I realise wholeheartedly that Beautiful Boy may have been trying to channel the repetitive nature of a drug addict’s life as they seek high after high, never finding the strength to stop, but cinematically, that technique does not quiet work – or at least the filmmakers were unable to effectively pull said technique off.
Beautiful Boy is adapted from two memoirs – one being Nic’s and the other, David’s – and although both are able to share two unique perspectives granting an almost perfect whole to the narrative, the events just sometimes feel like they’re overlapping, repeating each other, mimicking one another and then just clumsily tripping over the other. The filmmakers just could not seem to focus on whether they wanted to bare down on David’s story or Nic’s and as result the film just felt ever-so slightly messy. The ending especially felt like it caught the brunt of the narrative’s stumbles as the film just so suddenly ‘ends’. Like there never feels like a build towards a climax, the film just concludes and ends, as all biopics/ true story films do, with some text on a black screen explaining the end of the story the audience wanted to see. I really don’t like it when a film does that.
However, if the intention was to showcase the actors over the actual story then Beautiful Boy definitely succeeded. In addition to this though, as I mentioned before, in how Beautiful Boy is almost meant to play as a warning about drug addiction rather than a thematic study on addiction, I felt the film at least succeeded in driving home its ideas in a more dramatic way. Exploring addiction through bouts of family and true love really made the film’s core concept felt more fervently. Relationships are key in Beautiful Boy especially in how they morph and adapt to severely game changing scenarios, but still remain passionate at heart.
That’s actually a good word for this film, come to think of it; passionate. Beautiful Boy contains some passionate performances with a passionate message to purvey; its just a shame that not everything links together as well as possible. I feel there is honestly a near flawless film within Beautiful Boy and the filmmakers are so close to cracking said perfection, its a little disheartening that the film just does not shine as bright as it could have.
Still, at least Beautiful Boy is better than an extended T.V. ad on the cautions of drug addiction which ends with a “CALL THIS HELP LINE” tag and a little fast talking government official saying that the commercial was funded by the big boys in the big house. I do not want people to think I didn’t like Beautiful Boy, because that’s not the case. I may sound like I am being a bit harsh on the film, but honestly, there is not a lot to talk about on the topic of this film other than its problems. Almost everything about this film is so great – the acting, the score, the editing, the cinematography – that the problems are just more interesting to discuss in retrospect.
I think Beautiful Boy is a beautiful little film that may not be powerful enough a cinematic presence to make a lasting impact, but is an excellent display of acting and emotion, all wrapped into one.
And also, side note, if you are struggling with addiction to anything whether drugs, alcohol or anything else, please speak out. There are people wanting to help you and you are not alone. Nobody in this world is truly alone, and we understand that sometimes, all you need is for someone to tell you that everything is going to be “Ok”.
Beautiful Boy is a bloody… CRUSADE!!
- InSync Plus, 2018, Beautiful Boy (2018), IMP Awards, TMDb, viewed 1 November 2018, <http://www.impawards.com/2018/beautiful_boy.html> (Featured Image)
- Casillas, M 2018, ‘Beautiful Boy’ first look reveals Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet in the upcoming addiction drama, Silver Screen Beat, Silver Screen Beat, viewed 1 November 2018, <http://www.silverscreenbeat.com/beautiful-boy-steve-carell-timothee-chalamet-first-look/9482>