BEN IS BACK
(director/writer: Peter Hedges; cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh; editor: Ian Blume; music: Dickon Hinchliffe; cast: Lucas Hedges (Ben Burns), Julia Roberts (Holly Burns), Courtney B. Vance (Neal Beeby), Kathryn Newton (Ivy Burns), Rachel Bay Jones (Beth), David Zaldivar (Spencer ‘Spider’ Webbs), Alexandra Park (Cara K), Michael Esper (Clayton), Tim Guinee (Phil), Myra Lucretia Taylor (Sally), Mia Fowler (Lacey), Jakari Fraser (Liam Burns-Beeby); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Teddy Schwarzman, Peter Hedges; LD Entertainment/Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions; 2018)
“However well-intentioned, I could never fully get with the program.”
“Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Peter Hedges (“Pieces of April”/”Dan is Real”) is writer-director of this harrowing drug addiction drama of a teenager. The director’s son Lucas stars as the addict, while Julia Roberts plays his anguished mom with great emotion. The story is told within a 24-hour period. The 19-year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges), the drug-addicted son of Holly (Julia Roberts), is back home in the suburbs during Christmas Eve after walking out on rehab. The kid promises to return after the holiday. His presence leaves Holly’s black second husband Neal (Courtney B Vance) and daughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton) with both concern and mistrust. Holly has two younger children with Neal, Lacey (Mia Fowler) and Liam Burns-Beeby (Jakari Fraser). The question is will Ben keep his promise to return to rehab and will he remain clean. In no uncertain terms, the drama shows how hard it is to care for an addict and to love one unconditionally. Not satisfied with just that, the film gets bogged down with a number of forced situations and gets to do too much preaching. Since its story is about the raging topical problem of dealing with opioid addiction, the seemingly valuable informative film takes itself too serious and turns out to be a film that might appeal mostly to those in the same predicament. However well-intentioned, I could never fully get with the program.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2018 GRADE: C+