DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Beautiful Boy Movie Review

Beautiful Boy (2018) movie poster Beautiful Boy

Theatrical Release: October 12, 2018 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Felix Van Groeningen / Writers: Luke Davies, Felix Van Groeningen (screenplay); David Sheff (book Beautiful Boy), Nic Sheff (book Tweak)

Cast: Steve Carell (David Sheff), Timothée Chalamet (Nic Sheff), Maura Tierney (Karen Barbour), Amy Ryan (Vicki Sheff), Kaitlyn Dever (Lauren), Timothy Hutton (Dr. Brown), Andre Royo (Spencer), Christian Convery (Jasper Sheff), Oakley Bull (Daisy Sheff), Stefanie Scott (Julia), Julian Works (Gack), Kue Lawrence (4 & 6-Year-Old Nic Sheff), Jack Dylan Grazer (12-Year-Old Nic Sheff)


Steve Carell might be completely ambivalent about winning an Academy Award, but it sure doesn't look like it. Since he was nominated for Best Actor for his transformative role in 2014's dark and haunting Foxcatcher, Carell has appeared in a number of movies surrounded by either genuine Oscar buzz or expectations.
Carell made his name in comedy, simultaneously rising to stardom in film (The 40 Year Old Virgin) and television ("The Office") back in 2005. It didn't take long to recognize his dramatic chops, which were part of the enduring appeal of "The Office" and on display in 2006's appealing, decorated indie Little Miss Sunshine.

Since Foxcatcher, Carell has leaned more heavily towards drama and his recent project selection gives off the impression chasing an Oscar. If the movies end up being good, as The Big Short, Café Society, and Last Flag Flying all did, then there's no cause for concern. If, on the other hand, they wind up just okay, like last year's tennis biopic Battle of the Sexes, or even worse, 2015's lesbian drama Freeheld, then Carell looks a bit foolish and thirsty.

Carell's 2018-19 award season slate consists of three projects, including a supporting role as Donald Rumsfeld in Vice, Adam McKay's promising Big Short follow-up and the lead role of Robert Zemeckis' medium-mixing Christmas opener Welcome to Marwen. Before those are seen, though, Carell takes top billing in Beautiful Boy, playing the sad dad of a drug-addicted teenager played by Timothée Chalamet. This serious drama is adapted from two separate books written by David and Nic Sheff, the real people Carell and Chalamet play. It's a true story of a serious issue that is opening right when awards contenders do.

All of that amplifies your expectations, which only sets you up for disappointment. This is the time of year when film critics are busiest, scrambling to see a new movie or two practically every weekday. And most of them are really good to great. That's why their distributing studios are releasing them now, the one time of year when high quality can lead to more than just good reviews. It can lead to awards and, perhaps as importantly, awards chatter that can inspire ticket sales.

With his wife Karen (Maura Tierney) at his side, a sad, gray, bearded David Sheff (Steve Carell) is troubled by his teenage son's methamphetamine addiction in "Beautiful Boy."

On paper, Beautiful Boy certainly seems to fit the bill. In execution, though it is outclassed by nearly all of the other presumed major contenders that I've seen this year.

The film opens with David, a San Francisco journalist, bringing the matter of his son's crystal meth problem to a therapist (whom we later learn is Timothy Hutton, in a bit of casting seemingly paying homage to Ordinary People). From here, it jumps around chronologically. Sometimes, Nic is a young child around preschool age (Kue Lawrence). Sometimes, he's 12 (Jack Dylan Grazer), still sweet and wholesome. More often, he's 18 (Chalamet) and feeding his demons with isolation and denial.

Dad, who has divorced the boy's mother (Amy Ryan in a mostly telephonic performance), remarried (Maura Tierney), and had two more kids, seems to warrant some culpability. We see him smoking marijuana joints with his son, against his better judgment. But "gateway drug" or not, soon marijuana has given way to heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, and, Nic's primary poison, crystal meth. The boy is checked into rehab for a 28-day stint. At the end of it, he wants to delay college and extend his stay. The timelines aren't always clear, because Nic does go to college briefly, but also stays in rehab, then goes missing, and relapses.

It's a challenging situation for David, whose love for his firstborn son has always been apparent. It's also a challenging situation for Nic, who describes the exhilarating first high he got from meth and how he's been chasing it ever since. Nic kicks his habit and enjoys over a year of sobriety. He spends some time in a Los Angeles treatment center near his mother. And he relapses again and again.

A frail Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) is welcomed back with open arms after a stint in rehab.

The movie's drama ranges from upsetting to depressing, particularly because nothing seems to have any effect on Nic. He's always drifting in and out, looking unwell, seeming off,
and asking his father for money. Even a tough love approach from David, turning the kid away in his hour of need, doesn't seem to do anything but drive Nic to drag a girl into his dangerous lifestyle.

And then the movie ends. It doesn't have any answers, nor does it pretend to. It simply abruptly puts up some facts and figures about drug addiction and calls it a day. The "what happened next" screens are the only redemption offered and they are not the big gut punch you expect them to be.

Carell and Chalamet as father and son sounds like dream casting and the poster sells us on this image alone. But that's really all that Beautiful Boy has to offer: two talented actors providing convincing portrayals of heartbreak and drug use, respectively. The setting isn't of real significance, although at one point Nic moves to New York, prompting a cross-country flight. The time period is never particularly clear, although as a kid Nic wears '90s layers and later he seems to be watching Hurricane Katrina footage on television. Most of the time, Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen (whose biggest credit to date was the wildly overrated Oscar-nominated 2012 foreign film The Broken Circle Breakdown) just has the actors go through their beats over and over again. Van Groenigen, who shares screenplay credit with Lion's Luke Davies, will sometimes apply prominent music to set a tone, from Nirvana to David Bowie to Sigur Rós. It's a lazy tactic which doesn't reap much reward, nor does the perhaps inevitable scene of Carell singing the titular early '80s John Lennon song as a lullaby to his young son.

Beautiful Boy might have seemed more moving released away from awards season, when it'd be judged against the easier competition the rest of the year gets. But it does seem to fall short on its own merits, as it is unable to turn this personal experience into something meaningful or resonant for the viewer. Carell and Chalamet both do admirable work and neither can be written off as far as awards contention go. (After his record-breaking turn in Call Me By Your Name lost Best Actor to aged, fat suit-wearing Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill seven months ago, Chalamet has been elevated by the adoring Internet to frontrunner status in Supporting Actor as some kind of consolation.) But this isn't a film that will captivate the public or critics and have them talking for months. An acting nomination or two is probably the absolute best-case scenario for this, despite a strong opening in four coastal theaters last week.

Related Reviews:
Steve Carell: FoxcatcherLast Flag FlyingBattle of the SexesThe Big ShortThe Way, Way Back
Timothée Chalamet: Call Me By Your NameLady Bird | Amy Ryan: Gone Baby GoneJack Goes Boating
Now in Theaters: Boy ErasedCan You Ever Forgive Me?22 JulyThe Old Man & the GunWhite Boy Rick
Brad's StatusRudderlessLion

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed October 18, 2018.

Text copyright 2018 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2018 Amazon Studios, Plan B Entertainment, and Big Indie Pictures.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.