(director/writer: Felix Van Groeningen; screenwriters: Luke Davies/based on the books Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff; cinematographer: Ruben Impens; editor: Nico Lauren; cast: Timothée Chalamet (Nic Sheff), Steve Carell(David Sheff), Maura Tierney (Karen Barbour), Christian Convery (Jasper Sheff), Amy Ryan(Vicki Sheff), Timothy Hutton (Dr. Brown); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner; Amazon Studios; 2018)
“The story might be uplifting but the film itself is a bit of a drag.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A true story lifted from the memoir of a crystal meth addict, who just likes the way the drugs make him feel good. It’s directed in a non-linear way by the Belgian auteur Felix Van Groeningen (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”/”The Misfortunates”) and is co-written in a schematic way by the director and Luke Davies (a former heroin user). It’s based on the best selling father and sons memoirs Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. In Northern California, in Marin County, the veteran journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell) resides with his bright but troubled manipulative college-bound 18-year-old son Nic (Timothee Chalamet), who is derailed from getting on track to succeed by the severity of his opioid and meth problems. Nic is from David’s previous bad marriage to the still contentious Vicky (Amy Ryan), now residing in Los Angeles. Besides Nic, David’s second wife Karen (Maura Tierney) and their two young kids also reside with him. David is treated by an addiction specialist (Timothy Hutton), who sees little chances for his recovery. This gives dad a sinking feeling of despair, but he’s willing to go to great lengths to save his son.
The film explores what it’s like being a caring parent to a druggie who after periods of remission goes into relapses. The director got to know the Sheffs off the set and attributes dad’s unconditional love for his son to what eventually helped him out of his addiction problem. Though the performances by Carell and Chalamet are moving at times, it’s too emotionally draining to be entertaining or too irritating to be informative when getting repeatedly pounded over the head with the obvious horrid details of addiction. It also has too many unnecessary flashbacks, that were largely distracting. Eventually it runs out of lessons to give long before it ends.
The story might be uplifting but the film itself is a bit of a drag. Yet for the many American households facing these similar problems, I can see how affecting this film could be especially for them. But as a film, not being involved in this horrible drug scene, I couldn’t say I got much from it.
REVIEWED ON 11/31/2018 GRADE: C+