When the trailer for ‘Beautiful Boy’ (2018) came out, my toes were literally curling. I couldn’t believe that my two favorite actors in the world, Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell were banding together to create what looked like an incredible drama. Plus, I have a weird obsession with comedians taking on dramatic roles and no one does that better than good old Steve.
“Am I Steve Carell taking a dramatic role in Little Miss Sunshine, and you are the American public that only knows him for his comedic work? Because: Surprise!” — Paul F. Tompkins in BoJack Horseman: “Planned Obsolescence.”
After hearing that the movie was based on a book, I knew I had to get my hands on the memoir as soon as possible before the film was released. It was a lovely and heartbreaking read, all based off of a true story. The book follows David Sheff, (Steve Carell), who is the father of a boy addicted to crystal meth, (Timothee Chalamet).
What the movie manages to do is completely emulate the book from what feels like page to page.
This, in my opinion, is not necessarily a good thing.
Over the years with the transition of novel to film, there’s a large chunk of people who will get out their pitchforks and start marching if the film isn’t exactly like the book from every tiniest detail. For example, I remember the absolute OUTRAGE when Hermione Granger wore a pink dress to the Yule ball in the film version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire whereas in the book version she wore blue.
It goes without saying there are a bunch of readers out there who want the film versions of books to be just like the story that they’ve seen on the page. If there’s a slight difference, this tends to equate to audiences as “wrong”. The problem here is that these people aren’t appreciating film itself as a totally different art form. Some things are much better in written word while others strive as visual magic on the big screen.
This is the case for Beautiful Boy.
While the book has a more understandable flow through a single point of view in clear writing, this, unfortunately, doesn’t translate as well on the big screen. We don’t really know what period of time we’re in at any given moment of the film version, considering it jumps from time period to time period as frequently as possible. I’m okay with a story not having a traditional three-act structure, but here it becomes a headache pretty quickly.
Having a son addicted to crystal meth is messy enough. Why have the structure of the film be so messy too?
This is not to say that the film doesn’t have its lovely moments.
One of the loveliest parts of the film, (besides Timothee Chalamet’s luscious locks), is the acting. Damn, can these people ACT. Chalamet can act, Carell can act, Amy Ryan nails it, it’s just a gorgeous hub of oscar-grabbers here.
Another thing that I personally find beautiful about this film is its ability to soak in its sadness. Not a single moment of this art piece shies away from melancholy.
Usually, I’d find the excessive sadness to be sappy and overwhelming, but here it works because the subject itself is just so incredibly sad. I like that it’s just brutal and honest with you when it comes to its misery. The use of music, especially “Sunrise Sunset” (Can I ball my eyes out now?) is enough to break your soul into a million little pieces.
I knew if they didn’t play the song “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon, it would be a waste of a film, but thankfully they did. It just wasn’t as grand or dramatic as I wanted it to be… I wanted it badly to play at the end of the film. A perfect way to wrap it all up.
I guess this film isn’t meant to have a perfect wrap up though.
You can’t expect an ending that’s neatly tied up with a ribbon in a story about a meth addict, now can you? The movie is not gonna end with everyone in the cast bursting out dancing to a musical sequence of the Aquarius song like in Carell’s previous work.
Overall, ‘Beautiful Boy’ is a bit of a confused film. At some moments it’s truly haunting, while other bits and pieces leave you feeling distant from the world they’re in. If only perhaps we got to see the world more through the meth addict’s perspective. There are more opportunities to get inside his head that just aren’t taken. This gives the film a chance for some really creative visual work, but it unfortunately only gives us tiny tidbits into how Nic truly feels when he’s using.
I would recommend ‘Beautiful Boy’ because seeing Chalamet and Carell act together is a real honor, but I wouldn’t expect it to be as wonderful as the trailer makes it out to be. Overall, ‘Beautiful Boy’ can best be described as a “beautiful mess” that I plan on seeing again and again because Chalamet. Yet I’d watch a three-hour movie of Chalamet watching paint dry, so I don’t know if that’s saying much.
Just go see it. There are enough beautiful moments for it to be worth it in my opinion.
“I hated holidays,
France, Italy, walnuts and
algebra angred me,
opera sickened me,
Charlie Chaplin was a
and flowers were for
pansies.” -Charles Bukowski -Timothee Chalamet -Michael Scott