There is no stopping the Timothee Chalamet train. Ever since Call Me By Your Name the boy has rocketed into stardom and there continues to be buzz and anticipation surrounding his new releases. The latest of these is Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix Van Groeningen and based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, a father and son whose relationship is strained while Nic battles with addiction to meth and other hardcore substances. The film has quite the buzz surrounding it as it seems to be Timothee only hope at an Oscar this year as his other films failed to impress critically and financially. While we can’t judge box office quite yet, I can say that this film is just as much a disappointment as the rest of his 2018 output was.
The main issue with the film is the miscast of Timothee Chalamet. It seems a strange thing to have a complaint about but, he is too pretty for a drug addict. When off drugs he nails the acting, nails the performance and is believable as the emo, arty person that Nic Sheff seems to be. But when it comes to the drugs and when he supposedly at his worst Tim still looks like Tim. Failing to disappear into the role and taking you out of the film, lifting all emotional weight that the film attempts to place on the character.
The relationship between the father and son is at the heart of the story and David Sheff is played by the man on a mission to secure himself an Oscar, Steve Carell. Ever since Foxcatcher Carell has been on a journey to shed his comedic typecasting and move into more serious roles. In this, he is probably one of the better parts of the movie. Providing all emotional touchstones and being much easier to feel for than Nic. The relationship between the two only seems to work during the flashbacks to the younger Nic and how he loved spending time with his father growing up. In the present it is fractured and broken, the effect that Nic growing up and beginning his addiction is likely to have on a father and his son but the two seem to be missing a spark or equivalent which would have made it interesting to watch when the film is set in the present day.
However, Beautiful Boy at its worst can just develop into a game of “whoever can shout the loudest is in the best actor”. You can almost hear the director say “that’s your Oscar VT sorted” after some scenes of them shouting at each other. This is what the central relationship at the heart of Beautiful Boy is, which breaks down the entire film due to it heavily pinning this relationship as the central and integral part.
Taking away the fact that this is based on true events the heart of the story is far too repetitive to make for a good film and because of this, the film has some serious pacing issues. We feel the vicious cycle of drugs because that is all the film ever chooses to be. Addiction to recovery, addiction to recovery, repeatedly. It’s around the one hour mark where you begin to check your watch as the film begins to drag on and it is a real shame.
A shame, mainly because of some stellar supporting roles that could have been explored further and expanded upon outside of said relationship and addiction battles. More spotlight on Amy Ryan’s character of the divorced mother to Nic, Vicki, would have been a start. A great performance when she is on screen and a character which has potential but due to this being heavily based on the memoirs is, of course, missing from the film. Even the stepfamily are not included enough, people who both of the original writers were close to. The effect that it had on the small children there and the step-mother would have been fascinating to see, even in a little more detail than what is already included in the film.
The film was a crushing disappointment. With such a great cast and crew working behind it, the film gave me high expectations going in. I thought this could be it for Carell or even Chalamet when looking at the trailer. However, the film left me cold. I looked puzzlingly at the person next to me who, for some reason, was weeping by the end of the movie. Maybe I just have a cold heart? Or maybe I just couldn’t look past some of the more glaring mistakes the film makes. Like the miscasting of Timothee or the entire repetitive nature of the story and how it focuses on an emotionless and dynamic-less pairing, that only seems to be interesting during a flashback. Yeah, quite a disappointment.