“Beautiful Boy” gives audiences a hauntingly candid glimpse of what drug addiction and recovery looks like.
Because of a few key performances and the film’s weighty material, it is quite easy to get lost in the story; you’ll be rooting for Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) to pull through as he struggles to beat his addiction.
The film tells the story of David Sheff (Steve Carell), whose son Nic becomes addicted to meth at the age of 18. The film follows Nic’s fight with addiction and the subsequent effect on Nic’s father and family.
The film, based on two memoirs that a father and son wrote about addiction and the process of recovery, is cleverly spliced together, presenting scenes from the past alongside the story in the present.
This nonlinear format allows the filmmakers to indicate how people change throughout a short period of time. This is one of the more gripping aspects of the film. It really allows the audience to understand David’s trouble with coming to terms with his son’s addiction.
One minor gripe with the way this film is edited is that, although it creates interesting juxtapositions, the story can feel a little aimless and choppy at times.
The way the addiction is portrayed, along with its massive effect on Nic’s family, is genuinely harrowing. This is due to Chalamet’s performance as a young meth addict.
In many ways, the film would not be nearly as captivating if Chalamet was not in it. In this way, the young actor really drives the entire film.
Chalamet offers a complex performance, which balances expressions of helplessness, manipulation, charisma and mania.
While Carell’s performance works in its contribution to the story, it sometimes comes off as unauthentic or forced.
This is not to say that the performance is bad; there are times that Carell is quite compelling as the character David. It’s just that the performance doesn’t appear to come naturally to Carell.
Although she plays a small role in the film, Maura Tierney provides a suitable and convincing performance as Nic’s step-mother.
While there is so much that is worth praising about “Beautiful Boy,” there are a few questionable decisions on the part of the filmmaker that cheapen the film’s overall message.
A good example of this is the choice in music for the film. Although there are many good choices for the film’s soundtrack, there are several picks that seemed to clash with the tone. In many ways, the music settled as a contrived technique to evoke emotion.
Take, for example, the too-on-the-nose use of the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” While the song may have fit the film thematically, it almost dwarfs the reality and gravity of the film’s content through its overly-conspicuous lyrics.
It also is completely out of place among a variety of other types of songs throughout the film. In many ways, the film’s soundtrack makes the film appear as a collection of glorified music videos for an ill-assorted mixtape.
Sometimes the film’s dialogue had a similar problem. The screenwriting was occaisonally too plain and obvious. It made the dialogue seem more like a function of plot movement than a display of realistic characters
Regardless of the film’s scarce flaws, the performances and the film’s powerful story provide a purgative viewing experience that highlights the immense trials of drug addiction.