Movie Review: Beautiful Boy

By Ceara Kelly, Staff Writer
[Amazon Studios; 2018]
Rating: 7/10

With the country deep in the middle of an opioid crisis, it’s no surprise that one of the most Oscar bait-like movies of the year is Beautiful Boy, an autobiographical story based on the books by father and son David and Nic Sheff about the strain Nic’s addiction put on their relationship. Does this make it a bad movie? No. Is it something you should only watch if you’re willing to cry for two hours and be forced to recognize that Steve Carell is actually a decent actor when he isn’t doing comedy? Yep.

The movie starts with David Sheff (Carell) asking a psychologist about the effects of crystal meth on an addict’s brain before flashing back to one year prior. This flashback starts a confusing trend of scenes being told in flashbacks, flashforwards and present-tense all at once. It leaves the timeline confusing, to say the least. Only about 75 percent of the movie is able to be understood in chronological order, and it still requires some thinking to figure it out. There are scenes that work extremely well in this format. Nic’s (Timothée Chalamet) first overdose is told in this disjointed fashion and it conveys the anxiety and fear of his father like nothing else. When it’s used to show Nic driving on the highway and graduating from high school, maybe college, it just leaves the viewer confused as to whether or not the graduation is a dream sequence or some odd jump in time to something never mentioned before. At other times, when combined with the score, it feels like a horror movie, which, in some very pretentious way, it is.

Twitter will also be happy to know their Oscar hype over Timothée Chalamet, the king of bland acting, may be justified this year. That’s right – he actually showed some emotion this time around. However, his performance is surprisingly left in the shadow of Carell’s. “The Office” alum really should stay away from comedy. His past dramatic roles have earned him nomination after nomination for good reason, and Beautiful Boy will probably just add to the list. Most of the moments that leave the audience feeling gutted are because of his performance throughout the film. David’s rejection of his son is almost more relatable than Nic’s struggles. Although you feel for both of them, the helplessness David feels is much more palpable and is found throughout the movie rather than a few select scenes. That being said, both the lead actors face the same problem. While their performances stand out as some of the best of their careers, both are so well known that it felt like watching Carell cry over the drug-addicted Hollywood newcomer rather than the Sheff family. They just don’t fade into the characters, but that is of no fault of their own. It’s just their faces.

Despite the odd timeline and actors who you just can’t quite forget are actors, the story is phenomenal. It would be shocking to see anything else win for Adaptive Screenplay. The writing is what builds the chemistry between father and son more than anything Carell or Chalamet did. They could have cast random people on the street and the relationship would have felt just as authentic. The only flaw in the writing was a lull toward the end, in which it feels like the movie comes to a close three different times.

Overall, Beautiful Boy is a good movie and awards are sure to be thrown at it. It’s an important story to tell but a rough one to watch. If there’s ever a night you need to just cry because life sucks, here’s the movie to watch, but don’t expect to want or be emotionally-able to watch it again.

Watch the trailer here:

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