Skip to main content

South Valley Journal

Dan's Review: "Beautiful Boy" a personal examination of a major health crisis

Nov 01, 2018 05:54PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy - © 2018 Amazon Studios.

Beautiful Boy (Amazon Studios)

Rated R for drug content throughout, language, and brief sexual material.

Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton, Jack Dylan Grazer, Zachary Rifkin, Kue Lawrence, LisaGay Hamilton, Amy Forsyth, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Carlee Maciel, Stefanie Scott, Ricky Low. 

Written by Luke Davies and Felix Van Groeningen, based on the books "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction" by David Sheff, "Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines" by Nic Sheff.

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Addiction is real. Most people have seen it up close, either through personal experience, friends or family. Opioid abuse has reached extreme levels, with no end in sight. One family’s struggle with the problem is showcased in Beautiful Boy, a new film based on the real-life experiences of writer David Scheff and his son Nic.  

Steve Carrell plays the elder Scheff, a successful journalist for national publications like Rolling Stone, Time, the New York Times and Playboy. David’s teenage son Nic is played by Timothée Chalamet, an outgoing and aspiring artist on the verge of entering college in the late 90s to early 2000s. Nic splits time living with his mom Vicki (Amy Ryan) in Los Angeles – along with his dad, stepmother Karen Barbour (Maura Tierney) and their younger children in northern California. Except for his parents’ divorce, Nic’s life seems ideal until he begins experimenting with drugs and alcohol. As his addiction wraps its tentacles into his life, Nic begins to spiral out of control, despite the efforts of his loving father. David struggles to find answers and continues to support Nic, even after he’s caught stealing from his younger siblings and other desperate acts. After several hospitalizations, rehab, sober stretches, and consequent relapses, David must decide whether to keep trying or give up.

Beautiful Boy may be difficult to watch for those who have seen addiction and its effects up close. It’s a visceral look at the ugly side of a growing problem. That said, it’s a very honest look, and well played by writer/director Felix Van Groeningen, along with incredible performances by the leading cast, including Carrell, Ryan, and Tierney. Chalamet shines brightest in the role of a man gripped by a terrible dependence on chemicals – while living in denial of the problem. Chalamet’s natural charm is well-suited for an addict who is deeply convinced of self-drawn “realities” that are not true. Such struggles are the main basis of addiction; a battle between the lies produced by chemicals and the dependence therein – and the threat of death that looms over victims and their families.

Even with its ugly truth about a major societal issue, Beautiful Boy is an excellent film that should serve as a wakeup call for individuals, families, communities and beyond – all of whom are affected by the terrible toll taken by this scourge of addiction. It’s also a beautiful reminder of how love may not overcome such problems, but it can help heal.

Beautiful Boy Trailer