Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell wage war over the memory of a relationship long lost.
A father and son sit across from each other in a cafe that should be neutral ground, but the tension of history and their shame at past failings transform the peaceful setting into a battleground. Fumbling to communicate, family members become combatants. Concern acts as an attack. Love mutates into a poison.
I was not prepared for Beautiful Boy. My first act every morning is to check my phone while still in bed. I peek into email, scroll through Twitter, hunt for any movie news that might have dropped while I slumbered. Pressing play on the Beautiful Boy trailer left me a slobbering mess before I even brushed my teeth. Forcing myself to meet the day became priority number one, and thankfully I have you guys to help me act out my therapy.
Based on two individual memoirs chronicling the destruction of drug addiction from the perspectives of both parties involved, Beautiful Boy is determined to give your empathy a workout. Steve Carell is the concerned father desperately attempting to connect to the child he’s lost to methamphetamines. Timothée Chalamet is the son who fell down the hole of alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth. A chasm of pain separates them, and screaming at each other from both sides achieves nothing but more misery.
Plan B Entertainment and Paramount Pictures were originally meant to adapt both books. Cameron Crowe was announced to write and direct with Mark Wahlberg looking to inhabit the dad. Aloha happened, and Paramount eventually dropped out.
In swoops Amazon Studios and director Felix Van Groeningen. Upgrade. Anyone who has seen The Broken Circle Breakdown knows that Groeningen is a master manipulator of emotion. That story also dealt with a tremendous familial loss but managed to balance heartbreak with sincerity and joy.
Coming off a trio of critical hits (Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, and Hostiles), Chalamet is reaching peak artistic bliss, and everyone wants to snatch him for their movie. The kid is a volatile mixture of American and European sensibilities. He can fall neatly into place as your average teenager struggling to find his purpose in the world, or he can easily ascend above normalcy. Bouncing off of Beautiful Boy and right into the role of Henry V in David Michôd’s The King. He owns every red carpet he steps upon, and yet we still imagine we could pal around with him.
Watching the Beautiful Boy trailer reduced me into a weepy puddle because it succinctly puts you into the headspace of both participants. Chalamet can play you and the other in the span of a sentence. Carell, through years on The Office, has certainly proven himself a champion of opaque conversation. In using flashes of memory, the audience easily understands the anguish of the father. The agony breeds impossible report, and utterly relatable pushback from the son.
Start organizing your Oscar ballots. Beautiful Boy is guaranteed to be a major player come awards season. The saga of family torment has always been an easy-in for voters, but the artists involved here will elevate it beyond the usual trophy bait.