Beautiful Boy – Film Review

4stars

bb11What does the face of drug addiction look like in the United States? Are they young and white, living in an affluent neighborhood, or a person of color living in the projects? The truth is that drug addiction has no barriers; it can affect anyone who is susceptible to the lures of euphoria and escape. It doesn’t necessarily mean only depressed and lonely people use; no, it affects happy people who seem to have idyllic lives as well. Nic Sheff (Timothy Chalamet) had it all, he grew up in Marin County (an affluent area north of San Francisco), someone who was seemingly content, had an upbringing with loving parents and siblings, and all the opportunities that the world could offer, at his fingertips. In the film Beautiful Boy, we experience the journey of drug addiction and a father’s relentless fight to save his son’s life.

Set in the early 2000’s, David Sheff (Steve Carell), a prominent magazine writer, tries to help his son Nic conquer his addiction. He is constantly glued to his phone, waiting for that phone call from Nic or from someone who knows his whereabouts. He frantically searches on the internet for some shred of knowledge about methamphetamine addiction. He wants to understand how meth is affecting his son’s brain, how he can help restore his son’s failing nerve endings; he wants some information that will tell him what to do to help his son. Desperate to get his son help, he doesn’t even blink an eye when he is quoted forty thousand dollars for a drug rehab stay.

bb2This movie does not portray drug addiction like Requiem for a Dreamor Trainspotting, we do not see Nic downward spiral to that extent or take a joy ride through what drugs can feel like through the lens of Hollywood. You know when they show a person’s eyeballs dilate, all while psychedelic music plays in the background, none of that happens here.

Instead this film is the journey of what drug addiction really looks like; it’s one where a person gets clean, and they seem to be riding the high that is sobriety, and the person’s family believes wholeheartedly that the person will stay clean, but then they relapse. They get clean again, and they relapse again, the cycle continues ad nauseum to the point where the family who is trying to help the junkie feels defeated and crushed. Will they ever get better? Is my son, daughter, mom, dad (insert anyone), still inside there? And when the family sees a glimmer of their old self come through, that is what keeps them going to save that person.

I have experienced the ups and downs of drug addiction first hand, in my family. I’ve seen people get and stay clean, people trying to jump out of windows to fight the detox, festering heroin wounds, and how loving people turn into mean and monstrous people on drugs. I can never shake some of these memories. Many relapse again and again to this day falling back into old patterns. This is one of the few movies I have ever seen that has really shown that side of drug addiction. It isn’t cool, it isn’t funny, or hip, it takes a person’s soul day by day, but as a family we also hope for the best for our loved ones. We hope that they will get better, and deep down inside, we know that they can. David embodied that sentiment and Nic personified the charming addict.

BEAUTIFUL BOY Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff and Steve Carell as David Scheff

BEAUTIFUL BOY
Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff and Steve Carell as David Scheff

Chalamet was extraordinary, we felt compassion for him, and could see the moments when he was clean and probably thinking about drugs. You could see him coming out of his skin, without doing it literally. His acting showed layers of emotion and depth. One I haven’t seen in a long time, in fact I kept thinking throughout the film, that Nic Sheff would have been the role that young Leonardo DiCaprio would have wanted to play. But now we have Chamalet, a new guard of young actors is coming through, and he will be at the forefront for years to come.

Carell was phenomenal, and as an actor we see a different side of him. No longer the quirky Michael Scott persona that many people remember him as, here we see him as a multi-dimensional character. One minute he is fighting for his son’s life, another he makes a bold choice to tell him that he cannot enable him anymore. A father lost in his head, constantly thinking of his son, Carrell was able to portray that emotion with ease. At his younger children’s play, we see him look at their faces, relish in their innocence, and know that he has lost a part of his son.

Both Chamalet and Carrell gave Oscar-worthy performances and will be in the running for this year’s Oscars race. This is a movie you cannot miss, and one that will leave indelible mark on your psyche and make you appreciate your loved ones even more.

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Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Ryan, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Written by: Luke Davies (screenplay), Felix Van Groeningen (screenplay), David Sheff (based on the book “Beautiful Boy”) Nic Sheff (based on the book “Tweak”)
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 120 minutes
Rating: 4

Lady Bird – Film Review

4stars

LB5Lady Bird is a thoughtful and engaging coming of age story that depicts the melodrama that occurs in some teenager’s lives. It shows a time when most adolescents are self-absorbed, yet still dependent on their relationships with their parents. As much as they think they have it figured out; they don’t at all. The film Lady Bird is actor and screenwriter Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, and from what I saw this is certainly an entrance into what will one day be a well-versed filmography to look back upon.

The story is told from 2002-2003 a time that felt much different than today’s social media driven world. Considering it was post-9/11, when fears were being inbred into society, people were still not yet tied to capturing every moment of the news, nor were teenagers tied to their cellphones. Lady Bird is the name that high school senior Christine McPherson (Saorise Ronan) gave to herself because her given name just didn’t feel like her. She is filled with bravado, yet completely vulnerable to the realities of adolescence like heartbreak, rejection, and trying to fit in.

LB2The film is set in Sacramento, CA, an agricultural sleepy city, where Lady Bird feels like nothing happens, she wants to move to New York City, “where the culture is,” as she tells her mom when she tries to convince her to let her apply to colleges on the East Coast. Her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to stay in California, where in-state tuition will be cheaper and where she can stay close to the family. Marion is one of the most passive-aggressive mother’s I have ever seen on screen. She loves Lady Bird, we can feel it, but she never tells her she looks pretty or that is she doing great with her life. Instead it is a constant barrage of comments that she is not smart enough to get into a good school, an unappreciative brat, and lacks any grasp on the realities of the world.

One of the best scenes in the film is when Marion tells Lady Bird to fold her catholic school uniform and to take care of it because they cannot afford to buy more clothes because her father just got laid off. Who would want to hire a man with a family who looks disheveled, she tells her. Lady Bird says to her that wouldn’t it be great to have a mom who wouldn’t always make you fold your clothes, to which her mother retorts with “well my mother was an abusive alcoholic,” and walks away. In that moment we see the whole reason perhaps why her mother behaves the way she does and in a sense Lady Bird feels, but doesn’t really get it yet because she is too young. It is a defining moment in understanding the paradigm in her relationship with her mother.

LB3The film takes us through Lady Bird’s senior year, coupled with laugh out loud moments with her best friend, tenuous talks with school counselors, priests, and the head nun, and romantic possibilities and heartbreak. Gerwig gives us some teenage movie clichés, but she finds a way to mix them into feeling much more real and visceral, than other ones we have seen before. 

Ronan carries the film differently than she did last year with Brooklyn, where with that character she was innocent and longing, here she is completely vulnerable and somewhat extreme. She pushes the envelope because her character demands it, to have held back too much, or in the hands of another actress, the character could have been unlikeable and maybe even a bit annoying. Instead Ronan infuses her as the girl we have sometimes felt like, the one who says awkward things and tries too hard, yet also the girl who knows how to say just the right thing. 

LB4Metcalf was brilliant, I could see both actresses getting an Oscar nomination. The rest of the supporting cast played beautifully against the two women, Tracy Letts as the father, compassionate and soft against two forceful women, and Lucas Hedges (from last year’s Oscar nominated Manchester by the Sea) as Danny, and Timothee Chalamet as Kyle, her two pseudo-love interests. There was also her best-friend Beanie Feldstein as Julie, the shy and quirky best-friend who shone much brighter than she did as the ditzy sorority girl in Neighbors 2. I enjoyed the fact that not once did the movie make any note of Julie’s weight, it was never an issue brought to light as it so many times in movies. Instead it was never even a point of distraction or mention, which lent to the way the story was told.

By the end we see that Lady Bird can fly, she just needs to learn how to navigate her wings properly along the way. I would recommend this film to viewers and believe that it is worth seeing over some of the big blockbuster hits that will be coming out soon. Definitely one to watch in my book.

LB1Starring: Saoirse RonanOdeya RushTimothée Chalamet ,Laurie Metcalf, Kathryn Newton, Jake McDorman, Lucas Hedges, Danielle Macdonald, Lois Smith

Directed by: Greta Gerwig

Written by: Greta Gerwig

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 94 minutes

Rating: 4