Beautiful Boy reviews

dws1982
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Re: Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:51 pm

I'm mixed, leaning positive, although I suspect the film itself will be the subject of an episode of the podcast "This Had Oscar Buzz" about six months from now. (Although Steve Carrel's OTHER 2018 movie--Welcome to Marwen--seems like a better bet.)

I think that the narrative structure is by far the biggest hurdle to the film. It jumps around so m much, especially at the beginning, that I honestly wasn't sure that I had a firm grasp on what was going on, and there's no excuse for that. BJ is right when he says that addiction narratives are similar--the details vary from case to case, obviously, but the general arc tends to be similar in most cases: Doing better sometimes, then falling hard. I think that Van Groeningen both understands this and tries to fight against it with the structure of the film. But this free-form, somewhat impressionistic form of storytelling is tough to pull off. It works fine in films that are more about memory and feelings than plot, but this movie has a plot, and it's not well-served by Van Groeningen's approach. I haven't seen any of his previous films but his instincts here just seem slightly off. One example is a late-film monologue, delivered by the excellent Lisa Gay Hamilton, in a scene set at a support group for loved ones of addicts. We can easily understand how the story she's telling relates to the characters in the film, but he undercuts a very moving monologue by cutting between Hamilton, Carell/Tierney, and Chalamet (who is in the process of bottoming out in his addiction) rather than keeping the camera focused on Hamilton. In another scene, where Chalamet is leaving his dad's house (he had been there while they were out, and was trying to get away without being seen), Maura Tierney's character impulsively gets in the van and begins following him. It seems like one of those odd, only-in-a-movie scenes that doesn't really make a lot of sense for the character (what is she hoping to do, and what would she say to him if she catches him?), but, emblematic of the movie itself, the scene is rescued by a performer finding some real emotion; as Tierney seemingly becomes resigned to the fact that there's nothing really that she can do, the scene ends on a very moving note. I will say that Van Groeningen has a very good approach to some of the family scenes, especially when Chalamet's character is doing well (or giving off that appearance). The interactions between the family, between him and his family, seem genuine, and are some of the best in the movie.

I think that the actors mostly save it. I didn't have a problem with Carell, although I do tend to like him. It's one of his least Michael Scott performances, and I do think he's somewhat limited by the film not giving him a great deal to play beyond fatherly worry (there's only so much you can do with that), but I think he's overall really good as a dad who's at times trying to do too much for his son, while also realizing that he can't do enough, trying to do right by his younger kids because he has a sense that his parenting shortcomings may have contributed in some part to his son's addiction. Chalamet gets more to do, and I think it definitely establishes him as one of the great young actors of his generation. Actors in their age rarely get a chance to play characters as varied as he does, but just looking at some of his last films--this, Hot Summer Nights, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, and Miss Stevens--and they're all very distinct, very different characters. He does look too pretty and too healthy for a meth addict, but I don't blame him for that. In a weak year, I wouldn't have any problem with him winning Best Supporting Actor, although A) I don't think he'll be nominated this year, and B) he's lead. Tierney and Amy Ryan are both very solid in more limited roles, although again, I tend to like them. Honestly, the fact that the four main performers are actors who I really like bought it a bunch of goodwill with me.

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Re: Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:50 am

Films about addiction are usually very difficult to pull off. I can only think of a small number that work well, a couple that are passable and a heap that are dismal failures. Beautiful Boy falls into the last category.

Unlike BJ, I really appreciated Felix van Groeningen's The Broken Circle Breakdown. I couldn't say I enjoyed it given its subject matter and to be honest when I saw the film I knew nothing about it and was somewhat taken aback that it dealt with grief so unflinching. It was beautifully but together and somewhat original.

Beautiful Boy is basically a mess. It skips and jumps it narrative all over the place and I kept have to virtually stop 'watching' the film to figure out where it was actually at. It unfortunately kept this up for the whole running time and became quite exhausting. Plenty of films in various genres use the same cinematic tricks, telling the story out of chronically order, flashbacks, some even use forward flash. Or course this technique works or doesn't with varying results. It doesn't with this one.

Also, its a story that relies so much on the actors. In the case of Steve Carrell just doesn't have the acting chops or style to pull this off. He has always been effective in broad larger than life roles (The Battle of the Sexes) or broad crude comedies (The 40 Year Old Virgin) but he simply lacks the depth need to portray a man grappling with the addiction of his beloved son. Every gesture and moment fells overacted and false.

I couldn't get too excited by Timothée Chalamet either. Virtually starting ones career with such a great role in Call Me By Your Name is a blessing and a burden because it leaves expectations. I found nothing much to what Chalamet was doing which was very much in broad strokes. The editing style of the film did him no favours and he looked too healthy and homely to be a junkie (for authenticity refer to Matt Dillion in Drugstore Cowboy, Al Pacino in Panic in Needle Park, Jason Patric & Jennifer Jason Leigh in Rush, all have the advantage of being in much better films) but even Heath Ledge in Candy & Hugo Weaving in Little Fish gave performance that were very convincing as junkies - just the films around them struggling for drenched in mediocrity.

Really a more straight forward approach may have gone some way to making this film work better but in the it just came across as another rich kids indulgence that has little to do with the real world.
“Those Koreans. They’re so suspicious, you know, ever since Hiroshima.” Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) from American Horror Story: Season One

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Re: Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:41 am

Mister Tee wrote:Given the desultory critical response, I was ready to write this one off completely -- but it's having a startlingly strong opening weekend: estimated $325,000 at only 4 theatres. Year's biggest limited average. So maybe it has some life in acting categories.

Well, amend this. Either the original reports were erroneous, or the film did a nose-dive yesterday, because the estimate is now $225,000, for a $55,000 rather than $80,000 average. Still quite solid, and well above the disaster the film might have been, given reviews -- but no longer in the realm where the success level by itself could propel the film to awards consideration.

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Re: Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:56 pm

Given the desultory critical response, I was ready to write this one off completely -- but it's having a startlingly strong opening weekend: estimated $325,000 at only 4 theatres. Year's biggest limited average. So maybe it has some life in acting categories.

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Re: Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby Franz Ferdinand » Wed Oct 10, 2018 1:12 pm


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Re: Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:06 pm

Beautiful Boy is the kind of movie that just simply doesn't pass the "what is the point of me watching this?" test. I felt much the same way about the director's earlier film The Broken Circle Breakdown, where I was presented with a deeply sobering subject (a couple losing their young child to a terminal illness) but hardly any fresh insight that would make the experience of watching two hours of heavy grieving worthwhile for my own life. Beautiful Boy deals with another pretty sobering subject -- drug addiction and the pain it can cause the addict's loved ones -- but at this point I've seen more than enough films about addicts, and I didn't feel that there was much about this family's story that made it unique enough to justify me sitting through it.

I also thought it was pretty repetitive stuff -- and I get that the cycle of recovering and slipping back into addiction IS repetitive for so many -- but the job of artists is to find some way to dramatize that that doesn't make the viewer feel like they're just watching the same narrative beat over and over again. For an addiction story, the movie is also very sanitized -- the friend I saw the movie with had read the book the son wrote, and hearing about the horrifying things he actually experienced made me wonder why the filmmakers excluded so much of what might have given the movie some impact. (The cynical answer there is, then maybe they wouldn't have gotten such a tasteful, middle-brow prestige pic.)

The film has obvious parallels to Boy Erased -- based on memoirs, rehab facilities, parents/son conflict, flashback structure. (The films could have easily swapped titles too.) While in the end I think both movies are more PSAs than works of art, I'd say Edgerton's film has a stronger narrative line, and simply by virtue of subject matter (there just haven't been as many creative works about conversion therapy as addiction) is able to find more fresh moments along the way.

Beautiful Boy is clear proof, though, that Call Me By Your Name wasn't a fluke -- Timothée Chalamet is obviously a young actor of great promise.

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Beautiful Boy reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 07, 2018 11:09 pm



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