Beautiful Boy review – precious tale of addiction woe

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet play a real-life father and son in this insufferable, memoirs-based drugs drama

This supersensitive and tasteful movie is all but insufferable, suppressing a sob at the tragedy of drug addiction afflicting someone so young and “beautiful”. It is based on what is effectively a matching set of memoirs: Beautiful Boy, by author and journalist David Sheff, his harrowing account of trying to help his son Nic battle crystal meth addiction, and Tweak – by Nic Sheff himself, about these same experiences, the author now, thankfully, eight years clean.

Steve Carell does an honest, well-meaning job in the role of David and the egregiously beautiful Timothée Chalamet is earnest in the part of Nic, David’s son from his first marriage. Maura Tierney plays David’s second wife, Karen, and the mother of his two other much younger children – naturally concerned about Nic, but increasingly angry at the way David is neglecting his new family for what increasingly looks like a destructive father-son love affair.

So are these white people’s problems? Of course not. Drug addiction is everyone’s problem. But the tone this film chooses for this particular set of characters is, frankly, precious. Nobody’s giving Nic drugs. He’s buying them. But with what? Well, there’s one coy scene about Nic stealing his little sister’s eight dollars’ worth of savings. Otherwise, Nic doesn’t have anything as tiresome as a job, so he appears to be funding drug abuse from his allowance – a fact tactfully subsumed into this tale of woe.

Upper-middle-class white privilege does not exempt you from drug problems, but it looks as if it rates you a premium kind of respectful and sorrowing film treatment, something to do, I suspect, with the tremulous father-son ownership of this narrative. I’d like to hear a lot more from Karen about how unbearably spoilt and selfish Nic appears to have been.

Watch the trailer for Beautiful Boy


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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