The dependable Steve Carrell teams up with Hollywood’s latest wunderkind Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) in this adaptation of two books by father David Sheff and his son Nic that detail the latter’s journey through opiate addiction. Directed and co-written by Belgium’s Felix van Groeningen with British poet Luke Davies, Beautiful Boy emerges as an earnest attempt to understand the allure of drug dependency for the user while documenting the havoc it plays with those who know and love the addict.
Carrell and Chalamet head a well-selected cast and the screenplay strenuously avoids its inherent potential for sensationalism, but The Sheff’s comfortable middle-class existence and their access to substantial professional assistance make their very real experiences less sympathetic than those of so many others who have faced the same demons while lacking the resources available to this particular family.
Given that fact, perhaps the best way to critique this film is to ask the following questions:
1. Opioid addiction has been around for decades, so why has it only become a “public health crisis” now that it’s migrated into white middle-class neighborhoods and rural areas?
2. Where were the calls for increased government funding to combat its spread when the outbreak first appeared in black ghettos and pockets of urban poverty across the country?
3. Labeled a crime when it first showed up in those areas, why are treatment and rehabilitation favored now rather than continuation of the incarceration policies currently embedded in America’s drug laws?
4. Can a film with this exact scenario get financed and produced if it’s protagonists are poor African Americans or Hispanics rather than white and upper middle class?
The Verdict? An unmistakable aroma of pious concern emerges from this effort to put a human face on the costs of addiction, without conveying the real horror of the problem.
Jake's Takes comments powered by Disqus