LFF 2018: Beautiful Boy (2018) Film Review

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Based on the memoirs of American author and journalist David Scheff, Beautiful Boy is the English-language debut of Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen.

The biographical drama stars as Steve Carell as David, who documents his struggles with his oldest son Nic (Timothée Chalamet)’s addiction to crystal meth and other drugs.

Similar to recent release A Star is Born, Beautiful Boy effectively promotes a serious message about substance addiction. But while A Star is Born shows a solid foundation (experiences from childhood), Nic’s battle comes across as somewhat unfounded. The film doesn’t fully explore what drives Nic’s addiction, nor does it develop the emotional conflict between his family and his struggles. Instead, it highlights Nic’s dependence on them as a coping mechanism for ‘real life’, hinting a fear of responsibility and a desire for a carefree life.

With a confusing and mostly biased narrative, what doesn’t help Beautiful Boy is a lack of emotive connection. Van Groeningen and Luke Davies’ screenplay heavily focuses on the emotional toll of each character that not only includes David and Nic, in addition to David’s wife Karen (Maura Tierney) and Nic’s mother Vicky (Amy Bryan). While certain scenes are impassioned, some of the dialogue comes across as clinical and cold, and as a result, the film ultimately lacks heart.

What saves Beautiful Boy is its stellar cast. Carell and Chalamet are electrifying together as the troubled father and son, with the latter delivering a heartbreaking performance. While Tierney and Bryan play their supporting roles with gusto, the film ultimately belongs to the two lead actors.

With such a strong foundation, significant message and amazing performances, Beautiful Boy should be the complete package. Unfortunately, it is let down by its underwhelming narrative and lack of emotional resonance.

Director: Felix Van Groeningen, Luke Davies (co-screenwriter)
Stars: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan
Runtime: 120 minutes
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

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