I approached this movie with a great deal of apprehension. I should have followed my instincts.
Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix Van Groeningen, would have been better named A Dark, Depressing, Unpleasant Boy. While the only movie that I ever walked out of was Paper Towns (2015), I constantly resisted the urge to do that very thing in this tedious cinematic flop.
The film tells the story of a teenage boy’s drug addiction and his family’s attempt to confront it. Regrettably, there are no heroes in this film, and you are left with the feeling that the teenager’s drug use was his only escape from a controlling father lacking any form of meaningful sympathy or insight.
While the very talented Timothee Chalamet plays the drug-addled teenager Nick Sheff, let me start with one of the great singularly uninspired performances in film history given by Steve Carell as his father David. Playing an obviously wealthy writer living in the San Francisco area, Carell’s David frowns 95% of the time throughout this two-hour movie. Divorced and raising two children with Nicks’ stepmother, he lacks any imagination on how to confront his son’s drug problem. Spending most of his time on a computer where he researches treatment options to help Nick, he can only confront his boy in restaurants in meaningless scenes where you can understand my temptation to leave the theatre.
The film goes slowly nowhere, and it is held together by the performance of Mr. Chalamet who you will remember from his wonderful performances in last year’s Call Me by Your Name, the sensational Ladybird and Hostiles, both from 2017. Mr. Carell looks as disinterested as his character and you couldn’t help but feel that he was thinking back to his sensational performances in both The Way, Way Back (2013) and The Big Short (2015). Regardless, if you are a fan of Mr. Carell, set this movie aside and hope that his performance in Vice where he plays Donald Rumsfeld will do justice to his talent when it is released on December 21 of this year.
More to the point, this film is a product of Hollywood’s occasional tendency to beat a singular topic to death. For example, the subject of a gay kid sent to a religious rehabilitation school was recently addressed in The Miseducation of Cameron Post and will be confronted again in the soon to be released Boy Erased starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crow, and Lucas Hedges. And while the destructive impact of drugs on a young boy was addressed in this film as set out above, it will also play front and center in the soon to be released Ben is Back, again starring Lucas Hedges.
As a twisted version of an old saying goes, too much of a golden goose kills the goose.