Last year’s “it boy” Timothée Chalamet had the cinematic father of the year in Michael Stuhlbarg in 2017s “Call Me By Your Name.” Chalamet’s luck continues in 2018 as there is no doubt Steve Carell’s performance in “Beautiful Boy” is this year’s most loving and memorable father.
Audiences who have come to know funny-man and improv king Steve Carell on television’s mega-hit “The Office,” have watched in awe at his gradual transformation into a serious actor. Either actor could take up any project that wanted at this prolific moments in their careers, yet both Carell and Chalamet have noted they felt compelled to make this movie, right now.
“Being a dad, there’s an inherent worry you have as soon as you have kids that never goes away,” Carell says. “To experience them spiraling out of control with absolutely no recourse…” he recently told Time Magazine. “David was mourning his son while his son was still alive.”
Timothee Chalamet, Director Felix van Groeningen, and Steve Carell at the London Film Festival Screening of ‘Beautiful Boy’According to the government’s drug abuse site, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids daily. We see and hear statistics on a daily basis for so many different things. Reading through drugabuse.gov is daunting as percentages represent humans.
“Beautiful Boy,” which got a standing ovation at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, showcases the very best of Carell’s unfolding dramatic talent as a father who goes beyond the call to save his meth-addicted son.
The one statistic you won’t forget is the cold, depressing single digit number Carell’s character receives from an addiction specialist in the film. He’s told that meth addiction recovery is less than 10% successful. “Beautiful Boy” turns stats into people, parents into your next door neighbor, it opens up the conversation. “For us, that’s a hope for the movie: that it starts a conversation to see it not as a taboo,“ Chalamet told Time.
Why You Should See Beautiful Boy
Normally movies adapted from previous works are adapted from a single source, “Beautiful Boy” is adapted from two books. Both father, David Sheff (the film is told from his point of view), and son Nick Sheff wrote memoirs based on the experience.
There have been plenty of films detailing drug-addicted lives in recent years, and they fall into all sorts of different categories. Movies like “Trainspotting” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” glamorize drug addiction without as much focus on its consequences. Other films like “Wild” or “Flight” take a hard line to show the devastation caused by a person’s drug abuse.
All those films aside, “Beautiful Boy” is a far more intimate look at what one family goes through. It shows you endless relapses and the hopeless situation one family suffered, watching helplessly as their beautiful young boy throws his life away. It’s a tough sit for sure, but this is the film that can change even the most ambivalent person’s mind about drug addiction.
The movie opens with David Scheff (Carell) speaking to a medical specialist about meth addiction. Admitting that his son is hooked, that he has tried everything and now has nowhere else to turn. We are given flashbacks of the most adorable little boy and his father, as they both learn the difficulties of parental separation within the confines of divorce. They have a phrase they always use when emotional or trying times arise in their life, “everything, everything.”
Nick (Chalamet) tries to explain the “why,” but David just can’t understand. “I thought we were closer than most fathers and sons,” he asks. We follow David as he tries passively and then aggressively to save his son. Ultimately, the endless rehabs centers, the second chances, and other disappointments take its toll.
Why Carell’s David Scheff is the father of the year
There is a moment in the film where David gives up and admits to his ex-wife (Amy Ryan) their son is going to die. By that scene, the audience doesn’t know what is going to happen or what to expect from “Beautiful Boy.” The journey is long, and the performances are so gripping, you feel more for this tormented father than you do the son who is unwillingly causing the pain due to his addiction.
Both Carell and Chalamet are fully dedicated to the performances which should earn both numerous nominations during the award season. The power of the film will be greater than any accolades; however, it’s lasting benefit might be a tool to parents or maybe even children struggling with addiction. The perspectives from both the father and the son, thanks to their respective books Beautiful Boy and Tweak, provide a two-toned, blended approach you don’t see in many other adaptations.
There’s not one false move in the performances, and for those wondering why they should subject themselves to a film filled with such pain, agony and sorrow, I would suggest that “Beautiful Boy” be the research you hope you never need. Often modern films like this are our window into lives and circumstances we will never experience.
In one of the many striking scenes, after nearly all options exhausted, David acquires drugs of his own, in a desperate attempt to understand what it is his son cannot break away from. What is this brief euphoria and feeling that’s more important than their family?
Based on the reviews, and early audiences reactions, everyone is having a different reaction to the levity of this movie. If conversation and awareness are valued commodities we expect from feature films, then “Beautiful Boy” is one of the year’s best.