Timothée Chalamet & Steve Carell Shine In 'Beautiful Boy'!
by Alexandra Tirado
Beautiful Boy is a beautiful movie about a horrible story, and there couldn’t have been a better duo than Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet to tell it. Near the beginning of the movie, as he confronts his eldest child, Nic (Chalamet), David Sheff (Carrell) only has one question: Why? Why, after all the love he has received and all the opportunities that await him, would he choose to shoot meth instead? Why did he ever feel like his life was incomplete after all he had given him? Why?
David did never get an answer to that. And, for that matter, neither did we. Addiction is, after all, a complicated topic to bring up. Especially now, when the opioid crisis is rising throughout the country and more than 70,000 people have died from it last year alone. However, leave it to director Felix Van Groeningen (Oscar-nominated for Broken Circle Breakdown), who is a master at presenting difficult topics in a somewhat approachable manner, to do it justice.
An adaptation of twin memoirs Beautiful Boy and Tweak, written by David and Nic Sheff, respectively, the film follows Nic’s descent into drug addiction and David’s desperate attempts to save him. Van Groeningen combined both stories in order to let the audience get both perspectives. Accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack, Van Groeningen paints us a picture of the elastic love that Nic and David share and the debilitating moments when said love is put to the test. It is a good-hearted effort that, in spite of some of its shortcomings, delivers a poignant message.
The film is at times happy and sweet while most of the time is heartbreaking and frustrating. Repetition is a big part of the narrative, as Nic falls in and out of drugs, each time being more heartbreaking than the other. It is distressing to see beautiful, handsome Nic physically decaying and begging his father for a couple hundred bucks. Equally tragic is to see David’s grief, his deep desire to find a way to make everything okay, and his quiet longing for his beautiful boy now lost in a world of self-destruction.
It is hard not to feel sorry for a father desperately trying to help his son and a young life being affected by addiction so deeply. In that sense, the movie had us since the beginning. However, the credit is due with Chalamet and Carell for reeling us in and making us care. Chalamet’s charm and his status as Hollywood golden boy make it harder to see him spiral into self-destruction, and his superior acting skills make us feel his pain through the screen. On his part, Carell’s lovability off-screen make it heart-wrenching to watch his heart get broken so many times and allows us to understand and even support him everytime he puts his heart on the line again. Their performances make up for one of the biggest flaws of the movie, which is its unwillingness to explore its characters more deeply, making us feel like we are peeping through a window instead of being fully invited to hear the story.
Perhaps said unwillingness comes out of desire of wanting to remain impartial in order to tell both sides of the story. However, while doing so, we are left with no answers and no understanding of how an affluent white kid with a passion for writing could decide to turn to drugs instead. Nic said that when he took drugs, his life changed from black & white to technicolor, and even though we heard those words, we are never really quite shown what made his world run out of color in the first place. We are left as puzzled as David in the first place and can’t help but echo him when asking, “But why?”
In all, Beautiful Boy is a good movie. Chalamet and Carell give great complimentary performances. There is also a lot of praise to be given to Van Groeningen for his commitment to showing what addiction is really like through repetition and heartbreak. Even though it can get frustrating, Nic’s constant relapsing is what makes us sympathize when David finally decides to cut his own son out until he decides to get clean. Though this story is not universal even in the world of addiction (most people can’t afford to go to a $40k-a-month rehab center), it has its heart in the right place and is bound to bring up drug addiction to the conversation and there couldn't be a better time for that than now.
(Image via Amazon Studios)
- Alexandra Tirado, YH Contributing Writer