BY JONAH LAWSON
Warning: Minor spoilers… obviously
Beautiful Boy, based on the memoirs Tweak and Beautiful Boy by Nic and David Sheff respectively, follows a teenage boy (Nic) through his addiction to crystal meth and a father (David) through his struggle to help his son. Depicting relapse after relapse, this coming of age story brings attention to the drug epidemic currently plaguing young Americans, while also humanizing the victims.
What made this film were its outstanding cast, character development, and supporting roles. The up-and-coming Timothée Chalamet delivers an amazing portrayal of Nic, alternating between moments of convincing readiness to change and devastating hopelessness. Meanwhile, Steve Carell plays David deftly, eliminating nearly all remnants of his former comedic persona as he further solidifies his transition to a more “serious” actor. Thankfully, the centerpiece of the film—Nic’s character development—is also very strong. Nic has moments of stable happiness followed by rapid decline, each phase more and more intense as the film progresses. At one point Nic appears incredibly content with his life and the end of the movie feels near, but before you know it, his addiction takes hold once again. Karen, Nic’s step-mom, also has a very intriguing character arc as she attempts to balance the safety of her children with her love for Nic. Finally, a shout-out to Jasper, Nic’s young half brother: he manages to steal all the attention whenever he’s on camera, and his simultaneous idolization of and disappointment with Nic featured in a scene that almost made me cry.
My complaints with the film center around its constant attempts to lighten the mood, ostensibly to make it more palatable. First off, Nic’s parents are Michael and Holly from The Office. My sister asked me if Beautiful Boy was showing the aftermath of season nine. Word of advice: if you make a movie about a serious issue, such as the drug epidemic, and someone is able to ask you this question, you’ve done something horribly wrong. Second, while watching Beautiful Boy, if a scene features Nic using drugs or writhing on the bathroom floor, expect an image of a little boy having fun with his dad to follow. I understand wanting the audience to remember what Nic used to be like, and if used in moderation this method would be a great benefit to the film. The issue is that Beautiful Boy is supposed to have a darker side to it, and it’s impossible for that side of the film to fully develop if it’s bombarded by a laughing child every five minutes. Lastly, many important, more troubling aspects of Nic’s addiction are ignored in the film, namely Nic’s sex work. A sex worker is shown, but it’s very brief and the consequences of that life aren’t explored. This is such an important topic to mention because sex work is often one of the worst consequences of addiction, as people relying on drugs frequently can’t find work. As The Advocate beautifully puts it, “as much as Beautiful Boy holds itself out as a bold and uncensored declaration about substance abuse and the toll it takes, it is also an obfuscation.”
Overall, Beautiful Boy is a film I would recommend as, despite its censorship issues, it features an amazing cast and dives into the important issue of drug addiction among students.