Beautiful Boy movie poster
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Beautiful Boy
Beautiful Boy movie poster

Beautiful Boy Movie Review

The Depressing Young White Male subgenre season kicks off with Beautiful Boy, the first of several planned releases (and potential award contenders) that focus on the crappy and depressing lives of… young white males. In Entry Number One, director Felix Van Groeningen fixates on the true story of David Sheff, who spent years trying to save his son Nic from an addiction to crystal meth.

Walter White is not a character. Unfortunately.

Both men published memoirs about their experiences, which pretty much spoils the movie for you. Sorry.

It’s hard to tell exactly why Beautiful Boy doesn’t entirely work in the way you’d expect it to, other than that it doesn’t resonate at an emotional level—odd considering this very much should be an emotional film. Is it that we’ve become so numb to stories of drug addiction that Beautiful Boy, which depicts a very real but very “routine” addiction tale, doesn’t have much impact? Or is it that Van Groeningen simply missed the mark?

Whatever the answer, Beautiful Boy still has a lot going for it, even if it isn’t the award powerhouse it probably could have been. Van Groeningen’s direction is efficient and never boring; he tells the story well, hitting on the key points with accuracy, according to my wife who read both books and who also agrees with me about the movie falling just a bit short because I’m her husband but in reality because she has her own opinions and hopes and dreams and is a good judge of movies, at least when she agrees with me.

What makes the movie worth seeing, however, is Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet. Both are absolutely fantastic. I’ve never been a fan of serious Carrell—despite praise in recent years, I usually can only see him as Michael Scott—but Carell is at the top of his game here. Chalamet is even better and proves that Call Me By Your Name was no fluke; he deserves every accolade that comes his way.

Beautiful Boy is a well-crafted and superbly acted drama that unfortunately just doesn’t quite have the emotional power needed for a movie like this. But it’s a worthy entry in the Depressing Young White Male category nonetheless.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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