Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
The Sydney Film Festival is on now! Click here to check out our must-see films with the SWITCH team's reviews.x
review, Beautiful Boy, Beautiful, Boy, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works, Kue Lawrence, Felix Van Groeningen film rating

BEAUTIFUL BOY

★★

GREAT PERFORMANCES DROWNING IN A SEA OF MEDIOCRITY

THEATRICAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Daniel Lammin
9th October 2018

As well as entertainment, cinema has always had the capacity to contribute to social change, highlighting important issues that often directly affect its audiences and allowing a narrative through which both catharsis and education are offered. This seems to be the intention behind Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen’s first English-language film ‘Beautiful Boy’, the story of a father and son's relationship torn apart by drug addiction. With such an emotionally strong subject, an award-winning director and remarkable cast, one would expect ‘Beautiful Boy’ to be a slam dunk, both as a moving piece of cinema and as a piece of social commentary. How disappointing then that it turns out to be neither.

Based on the memoirs of David Sheff and his son Nick, the film follows David (Steve Carrell, ‘Foxcatcher’) and his attempt to come to terms with Nick’s (Timothée Chalamet, ‘Call Me By Your Name’, ‘Lady Bird’) crippling meth addiction. Once inseparable, David watches as Nick slips away from him and spirals out of control, and as it becomes increasingly clear that Nick may be beyond help, David has to choose between trying to save his son and protecting the rest of his family.

The biggest drawcard is the two leads, and thankfully both of them turn in tremendous performances. Steve Carrell continues to demonstrate just how intelligent and versatile an actor he is, capturing the heartbreaking push-and-pull tearing David apart. There’s a weary determination to his performance, and it is devastating to watch as that determination starts to crumble. And as we all hoped after his soul-shattering work in ‘Call Me By Your Name’, Timothée Chalamet is extraordinary as Nick, delivering a powerful, intricate and uncompromising portrait of addiction and self-destruction. The real magic of Chalamet’s performance is how he never wallows in the cliché of presenting addiction, never getting caught up in obvious emotion, always grounding himself in minute details and in the dense and complex psychology that comes with meth addiction. The chemistry between the two actors is often delicate and beautiful, and together they hold the emotional heart of the film in place.

'BEAUTIFUL BOY' TRAILER

However, this just makes the inadequacies of ‘Beautiful Boy’ as a film all the more frustrating. Where the actors circumnavigate cliché, the film buckles under the weight of them, falling prey to focusing on emotion rather than content or character. The screenplay from Luke Davies and Van Groeningen never solves its problematic episodic structure, and with no clear through-line to follow, it ends up becoming a frustrating merry-go-round of recovery and relapse that never seems to go anywhere. Because so much of the film is a repeat of similar moments and similar challenges over and over again, it also becomes occasionally hard to tell where and when we are, with tiny time jumps that confuse the chronology further. Van Groeningen’s direction also lacks a clear narrative focus, and ends up also becoming enamoured with creating emotionally affecting moments but with little time for character development. There’s a sense of hopelessness to the whole film, and while that could help show how desperate the situation with drug addiction in young people is, that hopelessness just ends up leave you wondering what the point of watching the film was in the first place.

Perhaps most frustrating of all are the soundtrack choices, often so obvious that they become distracting and take you out of the film. One choice towards the end even made me groan out loud at the thundering obviousness of it, hell-bent on wringing as much tragedy out of the situation as possible, going for your heart in ways that feel cheap and lazy. There’s such a determination to affect with this film, such a need to treat an important topic with appropriate weight, but that weight ends up buckling the film, and many moments that could have packed more of an emotional punch thanks to the work of Carrell and Chalamet end up feeling bloated and water-logged. In fact, the film really is at its best when aesthetics fall away and it simply focuses on their work. It also has no idea how to handle its secondary characters, especially the women, David’s ex-wife and Nick’s mother Vicky (Amy Ryan) and David’s new wife Karen (Maura Tierney). While Tierney is given one quite powerful moment, where she’s given the room to breathe amongst the stifling affectedness to explore Karen’s own personal relationship with her troubled stepson, it’s only one moment, and Vicki ends up functioning as a kind of antagonist, an inadequate mother ill-equipped to deal with her son’s addiction. So much weight is put on David and Nick’s stories that everyone else’s function in the narrative suffers considerably.

There’s such a determination to affect with this film, such a need to treat an important topic with appropriate weight, but that weight ends up buckling the film...

From the beginning, ‘Beautiful Boy’ wears its tragedy on its sleeve, but that signposting often results in a film that moves in all the obvious emotional directions. You could argue that's due to the true story source material, but there’s no imagination to the filmmaking, no rigour or daring. Hell, it doesn’t even have an ounce of anger or pain to it except the pain it slaps on like a lazy paint job. It has the weight that comes when a film has deemed itself important from the beginning, but while the portrait it presents of drug addiction - particularly thanks to its leads - has all the potential to be a powerful one, the inadequacies of the film itself rob us of that. In fact, apart from saying that "drug addiction is bad", I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of ‘Beautiful Boy’ is. Maybe it thought that this message was enough, and maybe it thought that the remarkable work of its leads - particularly Chalamet - would be enough to get it there. In the end though, ‘Beautiful Boy’ is just another of those prestige dramas that comes along at the end of every year with very little prestige about it and surprisingly little to say than to make us feel good as a privileged white middle-class audience that we watched an Important Film on an Important Subject and are thus a Good Person Aware Of Important Issues, without ever being forced to think about them beyond the helpful statistics that flash up as the film ends.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 25/10/2018
RUN TIME: 1h 52m
CAST: Steve Carell
Timothée Chalamet
Maura Tierney
Amy Ryan
Christian Convery
Oakley Bull
Kaitlyn Dever
Stefanie Scott
Julian Works
Kue Lawrence
DIRECTOR: Felix Van Groeningen
PRODUCERS: Brad Pitt
Dede Gardner
Jeremy Kleiner
BeautifulBoyMovie
BeautifulBoyMov
BeautifulBoyMovie
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Lost in Space: The Complete First Season - An exhilarating adventure into the great beyond
TRENDINGWIN LOST IN SPACE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASONAn exhilarating adventure into the great beyond
Hotel Mumbai - A nail-biting account of a real-life drama
TRENDINGWIN HOTEL MUMBAIA nail-biting account of a real-life drama
Standing Up For Sunny - A comedy without the comedy but very sweet
TRENDINGSTANDING UP FOR SUNNYA comedy without the comedy but very sweet
Claire Darling - A French film fail
TRENDINGCLAIRE DARLINGA French film fail
My Big Gay Italian Wedding - A ridiculously fun love story
TRENDINGMY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDINGA ridiculously fun love story
The Dead Don't Die - A zombie comedy that's anything but grave
TRENDINGTHE DEAD DON'T DIEA zombie comedy that's anything but grave
Back of the Net - Misses the net, and then some
TRENDINGBACK OF THE NETMisses the net, and then some
The Final Quarter - Tackling a shameful chapter in AFL history
TRENDINGTHE FINAL QUARTERTackling a shameful chapter in AFL history
The Nightingale - A blunt and brutal period piece
TRENDINGTHE NIGHTINGALEA blunt and brutal period piece
Saturday Afternoon - A shocking and abrasive assessment of terrorism
TRENDINGSATURDAY AFTERNOONA shocking and abrasive assessment of terrorism
Tolkien - 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Hobbit' fans, this one's for you
TRENDINGTOLKIEN'Lord of the Rings' and 'Hobbit' fans, this one's for you
2040 - A hopeful look into our environmental future
TRENDING2040A hopeful look into our environmental future
Sydney Film Festival 2019 - The reviews
TRENDINGSYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2019The reviews
The Wandering Chef - A delicious tale of human connection
TRENDINGTHE WANDERING CHEFA delicious tale of human connection
Ladyworld - Experimental thriller not so thrilling
TRENDINGLADYWORLDExperimental thriller not so thrilling
Men in Black: International - Wish we could memory wipe this one
TRENDINGMEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONALWish we could memory wipe this one
Never Look Away - An artistic and spiritual epic
TRENDINGNEVER LOOK AWAYAn artistic and spiritual epic
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir - An endearing tale of destiny
TRENDINGTHE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIRAn endearing tale of destiny
The Audience - Mirren reprises her role as The Queen
TRENDINGTHE AUDIENCEMirren reprises her role as The Queen
Judy & Punch - A dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
TRENDINGJUDY & PUNCHA dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us