If you aren’t already on the Timothée Chalamet bandwagon, it’s high time you joined. From Miss Stevens (2016) to Call Me by Your Name (2017), Chalamet has proven he has the acting chops to go toe to toe with anyone in the business. Fortunately for director Felix van Groeningen and his film Beautiful Boy (2018), Steve Carell has proven to be a strong dramatic actor himself – so when paired with Chalamet, the audiences are in for an emotional roller – no…it’s more like emotional base jumping, but realizing halfway through the jump that you never grabbed a parachute. Beautiful Boy is an extremely tough film to get through, but the performances are very strong, and the movie a solid entry into the cast and crew’s filmography.
Beautiful Boy is a tough look at the impact of drugs on a person and their family
David Sheff (Carell) is trying to help his oldest son, Nic (Chalamet), through an addiction to meth. The film is based on the memoirs of both, and dealing with addiction over the course of several years. In the screen adaptation, the story bounces around time, utilizing flashbacks with younger actors playing Nic (featuring an especially good performance from Jack Dylan Grazer), different stages of addiction and recovery, and the effects Nic’s choices are having on himself and the rest of his family.
I’ve long been an advocate for Steve Carell’s more dramatic roles. He plays these so much better than his comedic ones. I would take him in The Way Way Back or Dan in Real Life over Get Smart or The 40-year-old Virgin any day. His performance here is only further evidence of his sense of humanity. I felt for the father that, he portrayed so much so it made me uncomfortable in my own anxieties about being a dad. You see David trying to understand what he did or could have done differently, how to solve this problem, what the right course of action is and was, and the struggle he endures when he can’t. It’s every parent’s biggest fear: did I cause this, and if so, what could I have done to prevent it? His performance showcases this every step of the way, even when his anger inexplicably boils over. It may seem random, but I often find myself in that same position when trying to maintain composure on the surface, yet bubbling irrationally just beneath.
Chalamet also brings everything to this movie. His character reminds me of many people I’ve met along my journey so far. He made me feel discomfort when he was really high and pretending not to be. You could see he was only seconds away from losing control of whatever composure he had mustered. While is performance is outstanding and earns a wealth of sympathy despite being primarily self-inflicted, it is also what makes this such a tough movie to get through. He made my skin crawl at times, so much so that I almost would have preferred to stop watching, but I stayed put and finished the film.
There are some choices with the film’s style that leaves a little to be desired. The cold open where David is sitting facing an unseen doctor asking questions about meth addiction ins one example. We are then told that we jump back one year, and that is the only time I remember getting any assistance with the “when” element of the movie. Some of the flashbacks are easy to discern that it’s “a long time ago”, because Nic is younger (and subsequently played by different actors), but others leave you reeling to figure out where in the journey it belongs. Maybe the idea is we are supposed to feel how Nic feels, but it did get a little disorienting at times.
In the end, Beautiful Boy was a solid movie with terrific performances that I don’t think I would want to sit through again. As a parent, I’m in constant fear that I’m not doing everything right for my amazing child. She is amazing – I mean that – but this film serves as a reminder that no matter the upbringing, life ultimately comes down to the choices we make. Those choices have consequences, and some are much less forgiving than others. This film was a visualization of my parental fears, which makes it tough to ever want to see again. Thus, Beautiful Boy earns A Decent Watch rating despite the Must See performances.