• Beautiful Boy is a painful story of drug addiction. Steve Carell plays the father, David Sheff, a writer, with his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet).
  • The narrative structure here is an interview style with Carell’s David talking to Timothy Hutton’s character and then infusing the flashbacks (“one year earlier”). Young Nic (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a spot on younger-looking Chalamet- great casting. They could have done without the Hutton character altogether though.
  • Between this and The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012) it seems that Felix van Groeningen has certainly carved out a little subgenre here with gut-wrenching tales of family strife.
  • Carell, Chalamet and the pop-music curation here largely carries the film into the archives.  Cliches exist for a reason (this addiction drama is about crystal meth)- here the rehab, the lying, the pain– all feels poignant and real.
  • The film falters in a few small areas. The flashback within a flashback structure is not handled well by van Groeningen and in two spots specifically the music needle drops are regrettable. The lyrics for Perry Como’s “Sunrise, Sunset” are way too on the nose and just after that scene– van Groeningen drops the “we’ll run” lyrics to a song while Chalamet is literally running. It is like a bad use of music in a Robert Zemeckis film.

fine work from both Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet

  • For the most part the music is a plus. These are people (both the characters in the film and the people making the film) with impeccable tastes in art, music and literature and it is showcased. Beautiful Boy uses Nirvana (music, t-shirt, poster), The Beautiful and the Damned by Fitzgerald, John Lennon (title song and poster), Davie Bowie’s Low, Sigor rus, Charles Bukowski, Coltrane.
  • Some of the writing is strong as well. The father and son repeat “Everything” as their call to each other. As a child, with the younger (flashback) version of Carell the young Nic asks him to “check on me every 15 minutes.” There’s an admirable amount of specificity throughout.

Amy Ryan is very solid in support, just like she always is, in her few minutes on screen. Mostly her work is on the phone as Chalamet’s mother. In one of the best scenes in the film she is on the phone (in a lovely high rise) with Carell’s character. It is at the 83-minute mark and Carell is standing in from of this sublime, massive tree. It is a wonderful low-angle shot that belongs on the wall in an art museum.

  • Chalamet continues his exceptional work after 2017’s Call Me By Your Name (this another film with a great father and complex relationship). Chalamet has a Montgomery Clift-like vulnerability to him. There’s a scene where he breaks down in front of the Golden Gate bridge. Yet another when he slumps to the floor in a diner bathroom. He delivers lines like “I just felt better than I ever had before” that absolutely land without feeling cliché or practiced.
  • For a few minutes as Carell’s character searches for his son the film turns into Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979) with a foreboding score from Annihilation.
  • To show Carell’s character’s headspace van Groeningen drops the audio at a recital to show how distracted he is as a nice touch of filmmaking.
  • Recommend but not in the top 10 of 2018