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Beautiful Boy – Movie Review

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Beautiful Boy – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

One of the hardest things a parent would likely have to deal with is seeing their child become addicted to drugs. What Beautiful Boy does well is show the many emotions a father might face in such a situation, using journalist David Sheff’s account of his son’s meth addiction as the basis for the story. Director/co-writer Felix van Groeningen makes the curious decision to tell the story out of sequence and this turns the film into a puzzle piece the audience is required to put together. This breaks the mundanity of frequently seeing Nic Sheff sober up and relapse. Further elevating the film are the strong performances, particularly from Steve Carell as David.

Carell commands so much of Beautiful Boy and brilliantly showcases all of the conflicting thoughts going through David Sheff’s mind. At times, he is disappointed his son would fall into this trap and at other times, he’s angry that he would make such stupid decisions. Every single one of David’s emotions is absolutely understandable and Carell creates an immediately sympathetic portrait. Timothee Chamalet also delivers great work as Nic. The film only barely shows what lead him to trying meth, but Chamalet manages to portray the difficulties that can come from this addiction. The role requires a particular physical performance that he more than pulls off.

Most of Nic’s arc involves him frequently becoming clean, but like many an addict, the lack of his favourite drug leads to relapse. This certainly creates a repetition in the storyline, which leads to van Groeningen mixing the sequence of events. There are many uses of flashback throughout the film that help to enhance the relationship between David and Nic. This also allows the audience to actually pay attention and not fall into a routine. The abruptness with which Nic succumbs back to meth fits with what likely happens to addicts like him. What deserves commending is the casting of the younger Nic, as Jack Dylan Grazer looks and acts exactly like his older counterpart.

Less successful are the music choices, which tend to be grating and don’t fit the moods of the scenes. They are clearly trying to elicit an emotional response from the audience, but the subject matter should be enough to do that. There are a fair number of montages, so music is to be expected, but none of the selections work. For example, a song from the Fiddler on the Roof album is played at one point and doesn’t match what’s on screen. Meanwhile, the most inappropriate song choice plays during a chase scene. Upon reflection, maybe going score-less would have been the better option.

Beautiful Boy could have fallen into the trap of becoming a “very special episode” or after-school television special. As distracting as the music is, the performances are wonderful enough to bring the proper pathos to the material. Steve Carell’s transition from comedic actor to dramatic thespian has been remarkable to watch and he has proven himself to be capable of so much with merely his facial expressions. Most importantly, the movie shows what despair parents feel when their children end up going down the wrong path and succumbing to drugs. The structure may throw some people off, but it still works for the story being told.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison