Beautiful Boy: Expect good acting at its finest when Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell star in this “Just Say No” PSA.
  • Beautiful Boy: Expect good acting at its finest when Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell star in this “Just Say No” PSA.
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Daddy Dave (Steve Carell) spends the first quarter of the picture scratching his head while even accidental moviegoers — those who stumble across Beautiful Boy as a fluke, without the benefit of having seen the trailer or read so much as one critical blurb — will instantly recognize what’s eating his young son Nic (Timothée Chalamet). Could it be that, with only slight variations, audiences have seen this story of “relapse and recovery” told dozens if not hundreds of times before, and almost always in the same easy to foretell manner?

Based on dueling bestsellers written from the points of view of father and son Dave and Nic Sheff, this isn’t director Felix Van Groeningen’s first time asking audiences to mourn the absence of a child. Remember The Broken Circle Breakdown, the musical released a few years back about a bluegrass singer and his heavily-inked cowgirl working through the death of their child? At least that had a few songs to lighten the load and a director woking hard to preserve the realism and lack of sentimentality inherent in playwright (and star) Johan Heldenbergh’s source material. This time around, how’s this for syrupy audience manipulation? Only at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah are the treacly strains of “Sunrise, Sunset” even remotely tenable. It’s presence here led to flop-sweat. Like a junkie in need of a fix, I began patting down my pockets in search of a hit of insulin.

Who is this movie’s target audience? If the kid I never had grew up to be a tweaker, do you think I’d be squandering my entertainment dollars on a film that I could just as easily have written? And while Nic relieves his little brother’s piggy bank to the tune of eight dollars, any addict with a few bucks in their pocket sure as hell isn’t going to spend a cent of it on a movie ticket. Besides, who needs visual stimulation when there’s a drug-induced grindhouse constantly churning through their head?

Does Van Groeningen really think his fictionalized account is going to make a dent in the meth epidemic? This is the story of a college kid hooked on crystal as told by a director who’s addicted to closeups. (He has a macro lens on his back.) This isn’t about addiction so much as it is a hearable plea for attention on behalf of the actors as they kick off the official start to this year’s awards season. Oscar-nominated Carell is aiming at the rafters, while his young supporting player — and last year’s Academy darling, Chalamet — adds depth to his characterization by wisely playing Nic as an addictive personality trying to act “normal” around his family so that they will continue to enable him. He’s a winsome lad, a chatty good-natured kid who could talk his AA sponsor into joining him for a couple of cocktails after the meeting. Not that I get off watching play actors writhe, but how about some suffering for the cause? (Staring into a coffee cup doesn’t count.) As presented, Nic’s swearing off meth is no worse than kicking a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit.

Nic’s interest in the opposite sex is limited to the blonde coed he pricks with a syringe. There are two female role models in Nic’s life. His birth mother (Amy Ryan) doesn’t come into the picture until the halfway point, and then it’s simply to give her ex someone other than their son to argue with. Nic’s replacement mom (Maura Tierney) suffers stoically in the soft-focus perimeters of the frame.

Points for originality: there comes a time where Dave is spending 30 hours of his 40-hour workweek just to pay his son’s rehab bills. The sight of a parent firing up a joint with their kid has become fairly common. But is there another movie in which a father, wanting so badly to learn just what it was about a drug that turned his boy into an addict (and where his money went), hops in the family car and heads to a “bad area” to score a bag of snorts?

And while I was initially taken by cinematographer Ruben Impens’ dark interiors, the mahogany color scheme only acts to underscore the wooden plot. Those looking for a feel-good message will discover that, other than a pair of actors hucking for an award, nothing about this Boy is even remotely inspiring.


The importance of meeting Rupert

Veteran actor Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Comfort of Strangers) will be in town this weekend to promote his directorial debut (and longtime passion project) The Happy Prince. Everett also wrote and stars in this portrayal of the final days in the life of Oscar Wilde, which as of this writing had critic Matthew Lickona swooning and sniffling and casting about for a fourth star.

You will have two chances to meet Rupert Everett this Saturday, October 20. There will be a Q&A following the 5:00 pm screening at Carmel Mountain’s Angelika Film Center and another after the 7:15 pm presentation at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas.

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Amanda132 Oct. 18, 2018 @ 12:24 p.m.

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Amanda132 Oct. 18, 2018 @ 12:27 p.m.

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Amanda132 Oct. 18, 2018 @ 12:30 p.m.

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Amanda132 Oct. 18, 2018 @ 12:30 p.m.

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dwbat Oct. 18, 2018 @ 2:15 p.m.

On the other hand, "About a Boy" (2002) starring Hugh Grant was a wonderful film.

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Scott Marks Oct. 18, 2018 @ 3:51 p.m.

Never saw it. I must have been sick the week it opened.

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dwbat Oct. 18, 2018 @ 4:03 p.m.

In that movie, the boy saves the immature adult from his wasted life.

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SalULloyd Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9:30 p.m.

And 2015's "The Boy" is a psychological thriller about a 9 year old psychopath's obsession with death.

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Scott Marks Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9:42 p.m.

Now we're talking! "The Boy" got under my skin and stayed there for days after. Speaking of "Boy" pics, come back in a few weeks when we'll degauss "Boy Erased."

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dwbat Oct. 19, 2018 @ 10:24 p.m.

I just watched the trailer for "Boy Erased" and I smell Oscars.

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Scott Marks Oct. 20, 2018 @ 4:49 p.m.

Check out the trailer for "The Miseducation of Cameron Post." I smell a tie for best picture.

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monaghan Oct. 18, 2018 @ 4:56 p.m.

In real life, the hip and cool and pretty-rich dad wrote a book about his addict son and he went on NPR for hip and cool interviews. Then the addict son also wrote a book about being an addict, but I don't think it was called "Beautiful Old Man" or got much attention on its own.Then the cool and hip dad got "their" story made into this movie bearing the same title as the dad's book -- evidence of good marketing. I never read either book nor will I ever see this film. None of it seems remotely like the excruciating endless misery of families I have known who have serious addicts among their kin. From your review, Scott, it sounds like the exploitive crap it was before it ever made it to Steve Carell and Timothee Chalumet's agents. Bring back the black spot.

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Scott Marks Oct. 18, 2018 @ 5:39 p.m.

Hoot Mon! You make me laugh! A black spot was reserved for films without one redeeming facet. Chalamet's performance keeps it from going under, but not by much.

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dwbat Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9:04 p.m.

I once had three sinks, and none of them had a redeeming faucet!

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monaghan Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9 p.m.

You are so nice to say that I make you laugh, Scott -- a cause to be happy, something in short supply this particular evening. I remember when (the sainted-by-some) Duncan Shepard gave a shockingly undeserved black spot to "Madame Rosa," a beautiful if maudlin French film with an aging Simone Signoret who turned him off. I never forgot the power of the black spot and I never forgave Duncan for that review.

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SalULloyd Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9:31 p.m.

Monogram, and I never forgave him for his pompous black spot for Pasonlin's The Gospel According to St. Matthew and the original ROLLERBALL.

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Scott Marks Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9:36 p.m.

Pasonlin? You do a great Norm Crosby, Sal! And the original "Rollerball" blows.

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dwbat Oct. 25, 2018 @ 9:48 a.m.

Gee, I have to disagree on that one. I thought the original "Rollerball" was excellent, as was James Caan. I didn't see the remake. "Rollerball" was a useful warning about world domination by multinational corporations. And we seem to be headed in that direction, led by Apple and Amazon.

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Scott Marks Oct. 18, 2018 @ 9:34 p.m.

The last time I cried at a movie was during "Madame Rosa."I looked at my watch and burst into tears upon realizing there was still over an hour left to go.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji-cT58rgNc

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monaghan Oct. 18, 2018 @ 10:06 p.m.

Cut it out; not funny. But the links were pretty good.

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dwbat Oct. 19, 2018 @ 7:45 a.m.

I thought that was when you were reviewing "Gigli" one night.

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Scott Marks Oct. 19, 2018 @ 8:24 a.m.

I love "Gigli" for all the wrong reasons!

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dwbat Oct. 27, 2018 @ 8:41 p.m.

Did you ever love "Butterfly" (Pia Zadora) for the wrong reasons?

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Scott Marks Oct. 29, 2018 @ 1:01 p.m.

There's a copy on my hard drive. The garden hose scene alone is worth preserving.

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JamesBond24 Nov. 3, 2018 @ 10:04 a.m.

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