Granger on Film / ‘Beautiful Boy’ is cautionary, straightforward
This is the true story of a frantic father dealing with his son’s crystal methamphetamine addiction.
Set in Northern California, it revolves around veteran Marin County journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell), who lives with his troubled 18-year-old son Nic (Timothee Chalamet) from a previous marriage, his second wife Karen (Maura Tierney) and their two young kids.
Although David communicates with Nic’s mother, his first wife Vicki (Amy Ryan) who lives in Los Angeles, their relationship is definitely acrimonious, particularly when David realizes how skilled Nic is at emotionally manipulating both his parents.
One of the most affecting scenes shows David’s visit to an addiction specialist (Timothy Hutton), who indicates that his son’s chances for recovery are dim. His escalating feeling of helplessness is palpable.
Based on twin memoirs by David and Nic, it’s adapted in a repetitive, non-linear fashion by Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”) and Luke Davies, candidly exploring what it’s like to live with a user or to recover and then relapse several times after a period of remission.
While developing the film, the director entrenched himself with the Sheffs, surfing with Nic and taking long walks with David, noting, “There’s a sense of unconditional love in their family that is amazing and beautiful. ... It may be one of the reasons why Nic found his way out.”
There have been a multitude of movies about drug addiction and, unfortunately, this doesn’t pack the punch of “Trainspotting,” “Sid and Nancy,” “The Basketball Diaries,” “Drugstore Cowboy,” “Panic in Needle Park,” “The Man With the Golden Arm,” etc.
Nevertheless, Steve Carell (“Last Flag Flying”) and Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) deliver convincing performances, culminating in a recital of one of Charles Bukowski’s most memorable poems.
An estimated 20 million Americans are coping with substance abuse and an estimated 72,000 died from drug overdoses in 2017, as the opioid epidemic spreads. “Addiction knows no class, knows no race, knows no boundaries, and it’s a modern-day crisis,” concludes Chalamet.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Beautiful Boy” is a cautionary, straightforward 6 about the sinister seductiveness of meth.