As Beautiful Boy is biographical and primarily covers the subject of drug addiction, it felt paramount for the film to tackle its first hurdle appropriately; portraying drug addiction realistically and respectfully. Substance abuse is a dark vice people turn to and in Beautiful Boy they do not sugarcoat it, you see the full extent at which drugs can tear apart the lives of a young person and those around them. Many people may find this film is attempting to act as a sort of PSA that all drugs have equal harm, this is not the case. The film drives home the point of why somebody is abusing not just drugs, but any substance, as well as touching on why they medicate their own existence.
Beautiful Boy follows the story of a drug addicted young man (Timothée Chalamet) and his father (Steve Carrell) attempting to cope with the situation by helping his son return back to a sense of normality. This is a meditative story on erratic nature of addiction and remission, then back to addiction again; this film in many ways is a tribute to the battle with addiction – a lifelong war.
When I get down to it, I ultimately feel this film achieved its purpose; it wanted to show a story of the struggles of drug abuse, realistically, and it did that, but not much beyond that. The message this film is speaking of is impactful and meaningful, the script is moving and the characters have real depth – so what’s the problem? Well, everything after the cameras stopped rolling. The structure of this film is, and I hate to say it, astoundingly poor; this is a film with terrific content at hand but has been clumsily laid out like a child’s macaroni art piece. This film has timelines mixed all throughout it, not only can it get you lost in these, the timelines also serve little purpose to building upon the narrative. We’re accosted with entire scenes that have seemingly little impact to the story or the characters arcs and whenever a moment gets intense it cuts away from it to a point in time minutes later, not seeing the outcome or being allowed to absorb a moment. This is a movie with a serious case of bad editing, that if were done well would make this film significantly better.
This film strongest aspect lies in its performances, Timothée Chalamet storms to the top with his acting abilities. Embodying a son as an emotionally confused young man; he’s a downright unstable tweaker with so many internal problems that you can feel nothing but pity, disappointment, and remorse for his character all at once. Steve Carell offers a fairly decent performance as the father, he shows compassion and worry, but as the film progresses his character loses a lot of emotion and generally I don’t feel like I got any sense of an arc for his character. Had this film not be supported by fantastic performances, I would likely not be very enthusiastic about its message as much as I am.
Visually this film scrapes by with average camerawork, an area that would have helped this film be more interesting to view. The score had a lot of problems, some songs are so out of place that it throws you right out of the moment. You get this strange mix of genres that really don’t help to build any sort of tone or rhythm to the film.
Beautiful Boy succeeds in sending its message, but struggles greatly in the editing room. There are countless ways this film could have been re-cut and improved upon. I enjoyed many moments throughout but its choppiness distracted me from engaging with its story enough to find it as intoxicating as the drugs on-screen.