‘Beautiful Boy’ an authentic story of addiction

Brian Lang

More stories from Brian Lang


Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy (2018)

Sometimes you can do everything right as a parent but still feel like a failure. That’s how David Scheff feels when is bright son Nic admits that he has a major problem with drug abuse.

Director Felix Van Groeningen takes on the struggles of addiction and recovery in his new film“Beautiful Boy,” detailing the lengths a father will go to rescue his son from himself.

“Beautiful Boy” is the true story of teenager Nic Scheff starring Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”) and Steve Carrel (“The Office”).  This movie is brutally authentic and packs a powerful emotional punch. The story feels a lot like “Finding Nemo” except, of course, with a lot more heroin.

It’s a heartfelt take on drug abuse is inspired by the memoirs that Nic and Dave wrote about their lives “Beautiful Boy” and “Tweak.” Although it’s definitely not a light-hearted film, “Beautiful Boy’s” message is an important one that needs to be heard.

Van Groeningen succeeds in using the actors’ strengths whenever possible. Challamet plays one of his most angsty roles to date but works hard to humanize Nic and give his character substance beyond just the label of an addict. Carrel propels the story with his filial love and desperation, going to unbelievable lengths to save his son.

The side actors, Amy Ryan (Holly from “The Office”) playing Nic’s mother and Maura Tierney (ER) as Nic’s step-mom shine in the wings, grounding Carrel’s frequent hysterics with quiet strength. I wish that Ryan had been in more scenes only to rekindle that classic Michael and Holly chemistry.

Even with Oscar-caliber actors and a story sad enough to tempt any member of the Academy to give it a nomination, ”Beautiful Boy” has some imperfections.

The story often feels repetitive, with Nic sobering up for a while, but then ultimately falling back into his old habits. It’s remorse, recovery, relapse, repeat, which can make the movie drag, especially towards the end when even Nic’s family begins to tire of this pattern. Of course, this vicious cycle is all too real for many people struggling with addiction, and the film evokes that frustration and tiredness from its audience.

Some moments feel too dramatic and heavy-handed, almost like Van Groeningen is scared to loosen up the reins and let the story be told naturally. The music choices sometimes don’t quite mesh with a moment or the fast-moving scenes don’t give the character’s time to breath and develop organically. He also chose to use three different child actors to portray Nic as a kid, which really makes no sense.

At the end of the day, “Beautiful Boy” is a lot like Nic: it’s precocious and full of potential but struggles to live up to your expectations. Amazon Studios’ newest attempt for an Oscar is just not enough to be a true contender at this year’s Academy Awards.

“Beautiful Boy” has good moments and great acting scenes for its leads, but its whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.