Beautiful Boy Review: Chalamet & Carell Carries Drama Riddled With Problematic Post Production
R: Drug content throughout, language, and brief sexual material
Amazon Studios, Plan B Entertainment, Big Indie Pictures
Dir: Felix Van Groeningen | Writers: Luke Davies, Felix Van Groeningen
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Jack Dylan Grazer, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton, LisaGay Hamilton, Amy Forsyth, Stefanie Scott
Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, “Beautiful Boy” chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.
If you’re in agreement that Timothée Chalamet was robbed for Best Actor at last year’s Academy Awards for his role in “Call Me By Your Name”, well, don’t fret because he is out here trying to get that nomination again. Yes, I’m admitting that I am a stan because THE BOI IS TALENTED (and represents the new wave of actors coming from NYC so damn well). It is the second year in a row that this 22-year-old actor exhibited nothing but raw talent and “Beautiful Boy” is another entry in his growing list of powerful performances. Chalamet has displayed vulnerability in his performances prior to his role as Nic Sheff and that vulnerability is the force of his character. Nic is a mess and the film is centered on his constant on-again/off-again relationship with drugs and his performance is gripping each second he’s on screen. His method of portraying Elio in “Call Me By Your Name” was primarily subtle, for it was his emotions and mannerisms that left audiences captivated. Here, it’s more about his dialogue than his movement, yet he’s still amazing. He delivers his lines with nothing but passion and projects a wide array of emotions.
A huge contributing factor for his performance is his amazing chemistry with Carell, who is equally as magnificent as Chalamet. They share a great “father and son” vibe. In one of their earlier scenes we watch the two of them smoke a joint together. If that isn’t father and son bonding, I don’t know what is. Side note: Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet smoking a joint together is a fantasy peak I never thought I wanted to see, but I’m glad someone put it on film for me. The story is buoyed by Nic and David’s relationship and the actors that portray them do a brilliant job capturing the heartbreaking aspect and harsh realities of parenting and how far your love for someone can go. Even David’s wife (played by Maura Tierney) is incredible as well, for she has moments where she steals the show.
As the story progresses, you see David’s desperation to try to feel what his son feels so he becomes close to him again. There are intense and heartbreaking moments where David finds himself falling off the deep end in order to reach Nic in some way, shape, or form. It is nothing new to say how incredible Carell is in this dramatic role because he has proven that he can deliver drama as amazingly as he can deliver comedy. Like Chalamet, we see Carell in his most vulnerable and it’s so gut-wrenching to watch this down-to-earth dad trying his best to keep his son in check. When the film reaches a certain point, their performances deliver a gut punch to your soul that will leave you in shambles like:
No joke, this movie will make you want to refrain from using drugs ever again. It is the primary antagonist of this entire narrative and it makes you never want to touch any sort of substance at all. This is a film that makes you want to smoke a cigarette after, but then you remember the fact that the movie tells you not to. I dare you to have a back-to-back double feature with “Beautiful Boy” and “A Star is Born” . It’ll be a 4 hour AA meeting that will make you clean for life.
While I am praising the performances by the leads, an enemy bigger than the drugs is the film’s own post production. I wanted to cry during this movie so bad. Eventually I did, but that didn’t occur until the final 10 minutes of the film. This is a serious drama and in moments where they reel in the tear-jerking scenes, they never fully hit. It’s all teased, but they never strike the bullseye to your heart. Throughout most of the film I kept questioning, “Why am I not feeling the emotional impact?” during the more depressing scenes. The writing is fine and the direction by Groeningen is great. What’s at fault is the editing.
Personally, I’m not a fan of non-linear storytelling, but when I see an opportunity for it to work, I’m all for it. This should’ve been done right. “Beautiful Boy” is told in a non-linear format, which is fine and would work in several parts... if only the music choices in those scenes set in the past weren’t so questionable. When there is a moment of gloom, rock music starts to play for some reason so you have no idea how to interpret the scene or what to feel. Music is a huge factor when it comes to impacting the emotions of an audience in film (whether it be the score or the song selections/placements). “Beautiful Boy” is one of those unfortunate cases where the music choices keep your emotions at bay. There are moments where some music choices are just jarring and don’t match what is going on screen. Neither the score nor the music ever tend to match the scenes and it takes you out of the movie, leaving you more confused than emotional.
Another reason why the non-linear storytelling didn’t work was because most of the scenes aren’t allowed to fully establish whether something is set in the past or the present. The film has a two hour running time, but the editing itself on several scenes are extremely incoherent. Because of this, non-linear flashbacks tend to not work too often, but neither do the scenes that take place in the present. As I said, they reel you in with chances to cry, but those scenes are cut way too short for you to fully digest them and let yourself break down.
The emotional impact does eventually hit, but it is because of Chalamet and Carell's amazing performances. For the most part, the film is actively at war with itself where the actors have to overcome the editing that’s preventing the film from leaving an emotional impact.
For a film where Chalamet portrays a crackhead, how does he still retain his beauty? Yeah, they show how fucked up his arm is whenever he pulls up his sleeves as the story progresses, but his face remains the same. At times you see him high as hell, but you never see the facial marks caused by drugs that require lethal injections. No makeup or anything, just that beautiful Chalamet face... That Chalamet face that can perform so damn well that he makes you cry just like he did at the end of “Call Me By Your Name.”
So, I listen to two podcasts on the daily. One is “Double Toasted” and the other is “Bill Burr’s Morning Podcast”. Angry Steve Carell sounds like Bill Burr. There are so many moments where Carell raises and projects his voice in frustration where he sounds so similar to Bill Burr. Naturally, I thought somewhere within his dialogue Carell would scream, “Stop doing drugs or--
“Beautiful Boy” had all the correct pieces to be one of the best films of the year, especially since Carell and Chalamet performances are the crutch, but it unfortunately succumbed to incoherent editing which prevents it from achieving something greater than it did.
Rating: 3/5 | 65%
Super Scene: Can I come home?