Beautiful Boy review – screamingly cliched view of drug addiction | Film

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‘Blue, blue, electric blue,” sings David Bowie’s voice as freelance journalist Dave Sheff (Steve Carell) Googles “crystal meth”, the highly dangerous, highly addictive cerulean rocks that his teenage son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet), has been using. This is the level of subtlety present in Felix van Groeningen’s awards-y drama, based on the memoirs of the real-life father-son duo. Mimicking the relapse-recovery cycle of addiction, the film’s timeline moves in unsatisfying narrative circles that stall the already shallow stakes.

“A few weeks ago you told me you’d only done crystal meth once. The story has to be bigger than that, right?” Dave asks his son (because he’s a journalist). Except it’s not: the reasons for the clever, handsome, well-looked-after Nic’s slide into addiction remain opaque. Character detail is replaced by screamingly cliched pop-culture signifiers (Nic reads a Bukowski poem in earnest, claiming the writer saved his life “more than a few times”); the exposition is numbingly blunt (Dave discovers Nic’s sketchbook, filled with creepy doodles that read “I can never give them up”).

Carell plays the concerned father, but his angry outbursts never quite land; it’s unfortunate that when he shouts, the actor’s serious register becomes indistinguishable from that of Michael Scott, his character in The Office. Still, it’s not entirely unmoving. A diner scene that sees Dave sad-eyed and aware of his own powerlessness is devastating; what I’ll call the Chalamet giggle is deployed to great effect, the actor’s cocked head and crinkly grin telegraphing the kind of sweetness that demands a second chance (Neil Young’s Heart of Gold plays as a clean Nic announces that he wants his parents to be proud of him, in case it was unclear). Yet Chalamet’s likability is almost a problem. “It’s as close to a miracle Nic survived,” says a doctor after an overdose, but in this universe, rich, white men get infinite chances to start again. If Beautiful Boy is meant to be a critique of artsy, moneyed liberals’ complicity regarding their privileged, addled offspring, it kneecaps itself with an onscreen message that ends the film. “Help is out there,” it insists, but only if your parents can afford it – and only if you’re a beautiful boy.

Beautiful Boy official trailer – video

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Beautiful Boy review – screamingly cliched view of drug addiction | Film

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