A lost Indie I saw at a special screening over a decade ago was “The Favor,” which was about a teenage drug addict and his deceased mother’s boyfriend. I was upset by that drama at the time, but I wish I could examine it again. I know this may sound a bit off-topic, but watching “Beautiful Boy,” I was reminded of that Indie.
Drug addiction and alcoholism are serious diseases, and addicts may or may not recover from them depending on how powerful they are. “Beautiful Boy” does a fine job of exploring that, and even warns Indie-movie-goers at the end about those addictions. As tough as the problems are, I was moved by pure drama, emotional acting, and important message.
The movie, set in San Francisco, is based on some memoirs by father and son, David and Nic Sheff, including “Beautiful Boy” and “Tweak.” Steve Carell stars as David, who loves his son Nic (Timothee Chalamet), and worried about the path he’s taking due to his serious drug addiction. The boy says he wants to give up, goes to rehab and college, and then goes back to drugs again. It becomes a cycle for Nic, and David is ripped to shreds by this. He wants to help him, but Nic accuses him of dominating his life. It’s the drugs talking, and Nic is in denial.
Also struggling to support him are his biological mom Vicki (Amy Ryan), who lives in LA, and his artist step-mother Karen (Maura Tierney). David calls Vicki, while he argues with Karen in person. They’re all scared for Nic, and no matter what he says or does, he’s still injecting crystal meth in his bloodstream.
“Beautiful Boy” is a complicated movie about complicated problems, and director Felix Van Groeningen explores those problems with the right kind of intensity, soundtrack, and actors. Carell is angry and sad at times, and he should be. I felt his pain, while watching him. And Chalamet (who became more famous with “Lady Bird” and “Call Me By Your Name”) is a natural young actor, who does a fabulous job representing addicts who try and fail and try again to clean themselves up.
At times, we support the boy, and at times, we lose hope in him. Again, it’s a harsh disease, and people can or can’t recover from it. It all depends on how they abuse themselves, and “Beautiful Boy” wants to help give out the message.
The soundtrack helps match the mood and tone of the film. It includes David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision,” Jim Nabor’s “Sunrise Sunset,” and I knew all along that John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” would be on it. The title of the movie speaks for itself.
But more importantly, kudos to Carell, Chalamet, and Van Groeningen for bringing it all together. Don’t do drugs. I know it’s obvious, but it’s true.