• Avant Garb

Beautiful Boy

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Written by Andrew McGowan

Illustration by Phoebe Zipper

In Movies with McGowan, staff writer Andrew McGowan looks at recently released cinematic entertainment from critical and theoretical perspectives, shedding light on their social and political significance in contemporary pop-culture.

Amazon Studios’ new film, Beautiful Boy, is a gripping and heart-wrenching drama about addiction, family, and suffering. Based off of the true story presented in David Sheff’s 2006 memoir, the movie focuses on David’s (Steve Carell) challenging relationship with his once picture-perfect son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet), as Nic falls into a disturbing and deteriorating cycle of methamphetamine addiction. Produced by Brad Pitt and directed by Felix van Groeningen, the independent film had a limited theatrical release on October 12th, and it has since received lots of praise from critics and audiences alike. In addition to the phenomenal cinematography shot in the Bay Area and an intricate use of time and editing, Beautiful Boy stands out most for its great acting. Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet co-star as a father-son duo with daring yet exquisite chemistry that makes the audience empathize with both characters despite the troubled bond between them.

Timothée Chalamet has received lots of attention over the past year, having taken on a role in the Oscar nominated Lady Bird and having received an Oscar nomination himself for best actor in Call Me By Your Name. At this point, there seems to be little question about his ability to play profound roles, especially when those roles involve a conflicted adolescent character. His role in Beautiful Boy further demonstrates this skill, as his character, Nic, is one that endures deep inner turmoil.

Nic wants the best for himself and his family, but a self-perpetuating illness constantly plagues these wholesome desires. Chalamet perhaps shines brightest in scenes with co-star Steve Carell, where Chalamet captures both angst and sorrow in the face of his character’s caring father. Carell responds to Chalamet’s acting with an equally impressive performance. Often credited for being a comedic actor, Carell has lately proven his dramatic talents, particularly through his 2014 Oscar nominated performance in Foxcatcher. Playing the concerned and heartbroken father in Beautiful Boy, Carell balances his character’s frustration and love, appearing frequently worried and somewhat disappointed, but also madly infatuated with his son. Thanks to these powerful performances, audiences truly want the father-son pair to rekindle a positive relationship, but the omnipresent effects of the son’s addiction starkly stratifies that ideal. With such human performances, the audience finds itself identifying with both sides of the story, creating a very authentic and important narrative about drugs, illness, and the complicated yet awesome power of familial love.