Heart-Wrenching Drug Addiction
Drug addiction is a tragedy that has fallen on America’s high and the mighty, the well-educated and the high-school dropout, the celebrity and the ordinary Joe, the wealthy and the middle class, the poor and downtrodden. In Beautiful Boy, 18-year-old Nic Sheff comes from an upper middle-class family in the San Francisco area, and has inadvertently fallen in love with drugs. But they don’t love him.
Director Felix Van Groeningen’s film is an adaptation of the real-life story as depicted in two books written separately by father and son, David and Nic Sheff, respectively. In essence, it’s a story of the relationship between the two and the love that binds them but separates them as well. Dad David tries everything he can to help his son get off drugs. It’s a test of will and the love that binds. The film shows the anguish caused to Nic’s parents by his drug addiction and descent into squalor.
Young shooting star Timothee Chalamet (Oscar®-nominated for Call Me by Your Name) plays Nic, a handsome young man -- bordering on beautiful -- with flowing hair and skin like spun gold. He’s tall, he’s dark with green eyes, and certainly catnip to the young ladies his age. One in particular is Lauren (Kaitlyn Dever) who joins him on his downward spiral. Of course, Chalamet didn’t have to become a drug addict to play one. He’s an actor, and a good one at that, who can play “pretend” and pull out all the stops. He shudders, he writhes in pain, he drools, he crawls around on the floor of a filthy toilet stall. Such a method actor! But he makes you believe he is a drug addict. With this gripping performance, Chalamet proves once again he’s no flash-in-the-pan.
Actress Maura Tierney has the difficult step-mom role. She needs to be supportive and yet take a stand about how much help the boy should get. After a certain point, most addicts can’t help themselves and you can’t help them. Tierney has to play tough with a heart of gold.
Carell, who probably has his best and most dramatic part in this film, portrays the elder Sheff with a bit of bewilderment as to how to handle his son. He leans on first wife Vicki, played exquisitely by Amy Ryan(Oscar® nomination for 2007’s Gone Baby Gone). They are both confrontational and have a tendency to blame each other for their son’s addiction.
Ryan has one terrific anguished crying scene on the telephone that should garner her another Oscar® nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.
But most kudos must go to young Chalamet. He has one galvanizing telephone scene on a hill in San Francisco in which he begs his father for help. The audience can feel that his heart is breaking, that he’s a little boy again looking for his father’s love, and ultimately disintegrating when that love is not forthcoming. It’s a brilliant scene and one which must be considered for another Oscar® nomination.
Telephone scenes have figured prominently in the history of Academy Awards®. Think back to Barbara Stanwyck’s hysterical, Oscar®-nominated performance in Paramount Pictures’ Sorry Wrong Number (1948) and Luise Rainer’s famous telephone scene in her Oscar®-winning performance in 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld for MGM.
So, with two great telephone scenes in Beautiful Boy, both Chalamet and Ryan have a good chance of joining the upcoming list of nominated actors for their prowess with that little electronic gadget that means so much to their careers.
(Released by Amazon Studios/ Plan B Entertainment, Big Indie Pictures. Rated “R” for drug content throughout, language, and brief sexual material.)