Based on their memoirs, Beautiful Boy is the story of David Sheff and his son Nic, as their relationship is strained when Nic becomes addicted to drugs. The film debuted at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
Although the film’s story is undeniably compelling, it wasn’t always the most effective at capturing the audience’s attention. It is obvious that Nic is someone who made a misstep in his life that caused his world to fall apart. As such, it is hard to not feel sympathy for him. However, because the film constantly pummels the audience with sad (and sometimes excessively tear-jerking) moments, it instead becomes derivative and tiresome.
Additionally, the film’s pacing is inconsistent. Although it is based on a true story, the film still feels repetitive. The process of struggle, recovery, and relapse is repeated one too many times. The film feels slow and about thirty minutes longer than it really needed to be. More distracting is the fact that the film leaves the arc incomplete. The film ends at a time in the story that is entirely unsatisfying, especially given the real-life end of the story.
Furthermore, the film didn’t always feel completely realistic. Some scenes felt gritty and real, but other scenes had dialogue that seemed artificial. The emotion behind the scenes was always genuine, but the actions were not. The characters also had too many drastic shifts within scenes. This is justifiable for Nic, who experiences mood swings as a result of withdrawals, but more inexplicable for David.
That being said, the film does accomplish its goal of showing the horrors of drug addiction. It has been since perhaps Trainspotting that a film has given such a harrowing portrayal of drugs. This is not meant to be an uplifting film — it is meant to be dark and depressing, and you will definitely be feeling down when the movie is over.
The actors are all very good too. Timothée Chalamet is as great as always in his role, fully committing to the transformation, although he isn’t given as much to do as he should have been. Instead, the focus is clearly on Steve Carell, who is wonderful. Carell is arguably a better dramatic actor than a comedic one, and this is one of his strongest turns yet. He absolutely nails the emotion and nuance associated with the character.
Overall, Beautiful Boy isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t as good as it should have been. It is well-acted and harrowing, but a tad slow and overlong.
Beautiful Boy is now playing in select theaters and expands November 2.