06th May2019

‘Beautiful Boy’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Steve Carell, Maura Tierney, Jack Dylan Grazer, Oakley Bull, Christian Convery, Timothée Chalamet, Amy Aquino, Carlton Wilborn, Stefanie Scott, Marypat Farrell, Timoth Hutton, Amy Forsyth | Written by Felix van Groeningen, Luke Davies | Directed by Felix van Groeningen


Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix van Groeningen, faces stiff competition as the Armageddon to Peter Hedges’ Ben is Back, the equivalent to that of Deep Impact. A nonsensical and truly incomparable comparison, but undoubtedly the two have some similarities, and with having seen Hedges Ben is Back and now Groeningen’s film, it is undoubtedly clear that one of these films has won this none-existing war by a mile. As Beautiful Boy is a heart-breaking, sombre and brutal feature that puts you through every pain imaginable watching this tragic story unfold.

There is a lot to appreciate here, specifically the performances. Film Twitter darling Timothee Chalamet is breath-taking in his role as addict Nic Sheff. His performance is sheer mesmerizing talent stripped all of ego and just left to perform. It’s easy to mock Chalamet and his disciples who laud him as the second coming of sorts and compare his talents to that of Leonardo DiCaprio, of which is an insult to Chalamet. However, after his run of form working with directors such as Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Jason Reitman, it is undeniable to argue against the talent this young actor has. He almost transcends the craft in a way. A combination of where theatre meets cinema. He has this ability to just nullify everything on the screen except for his performance, and here is no different. He is outstanding as addict Nic Sheff. I have never been an addict, but to see how Chalamet conveys such emotional anguish and the depth of this disease, you feel like you’re in his shoes, you’ll feel the pain and torment with each sequence he begs for money or tries to find solace with his sponsor but fails. It not just the physiological conviction but also the physicality that shines. Losing 25 pounds in order to truly evoke a sense of this addiction, Chalamet unequivocally has a gruelling, albeit much-appreciated dedication to his craft.

Carell, on the other hand, is Michael Scott intensified/amplified and really gets in the way of this hard-hitting story. Theirs a sequence in which he’s losing all hope with Chalamet’s Nic, and he’s screaming at him in a driveway and the way he conveys his anger and tension is the exact same manner in which Michael Scott does in the episode where Dwight sets fire to the office in The Office. It’s verbally verbatim and much like Welcome to Marwen, Carell can’t shake that character. It’s a difficult one to asses because Carell to his credit has tried everything to render Michael Scott diseased, but when you’ve played a beloved character in a highly success full TV show that firmly cemented its place into popular culture it becomes inevitable to separate the two. Carell excels when he’s stoic, he has this powerful physical expression that conveys emotional intensity and predicament beautifully. That being said, it’s beginning to fall into the same trap that Bruce Willis is in with the steely blue eyes look, and ultimately, it’s a one-note expression in which both actors depend on. Carell isn’t all bad. He delivers monologues as good as you’re going to get. He’s witty, charismatic and undeniably likeable and fashions these characters you can’t help but root for, and to his credit, he’s choosing distinctly unique projects that will potentially – when it’s all said and done – craft quite the career.

However, speaking of the performances and ironically enough Carell’s Michael Scott, theirs a majorly uneven and ridiculous casting involved here, and that’s the involvement of Amy Ryan as Vicki Sheff, Steve Carell’s characters ex-wife, and mother to Chalamet’s Nic. Now, while the name of Amy Ryan might not perhaps have you jumping out of your seat, if you’re a fan of The Office you are most certainly aware of who she is. Amy Ryan plays the girlfriend and eventual wife of Carell’s Michael Scott in last few seasons of The Office. Granted it’s not the most jaw-dropping or criminal of aspects but seriously? It just takes you out of the experience completely and quite frankly is an incredibly bizarre casting choice considering the performers’ connection. It’s like when you have John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and then cast them together in a reunion like Be Cool. It simply doesn’t work and whether you like it or not, you’re constantly comparing the two, and not focusing on the film itself.

Finally, one of the most abstract and intriguing aspects of Beautiful Boy is the score. It’s incredibly involved and obscure in terms of how it evokes feeling throughout. A constant hum of sorts in which it persistently echoes and shadows the image, to highlight both the ups and the downs. It flickers from contemporary music to an organic acoustic and the way it sways, while admittedly hinging on a music video aesthetic, really powers strong abrupt emotions.

Beautiful Boy will be available to buy digitally in the UK on Monday, May 13th.


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