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2018 Leeds Film Festival Review: Beautiful Boy – “You come for the performances by the two leads”

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Beautiful Boy is the first major role for Timothée Chalamet after he blew up into one of the biggest stars of his generation in last year’s Call Me by Your Name and Lady Bird. It’s been a wild 12 months for the young star after awards season and finding adoring fans both male and female wherever he goes. It’s going to happen all over again because he is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for Beautiful Boy. It’s an addiction drama and the Academy gobbles that shit up quicker then the attendees can get to the toilet during the music numbers to do lines of coke.

It’s a very well made film and the performance by Chalamet as Nic Sheff is exceptional and Steve Carrell is very good as his long-suffering father David. However, it’s not without its issues and the major one is why should we actually care about this overprivileged son of a Rolling Stone scribe and his methamphetamine problem when he had all the resources to get help? It helps enormously it’s Carrell and Chalamet playing the father and son but that question keeps going through your head continuously and you keep thinking… I don’t really care.

The reason why Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream are so disturbing and effective as films about the perils of drug use is that they showed how fun drugs often are but also the unimaginable horrors that can come along with it. It also helps those films about normal working class people not this son of unimaginable privilege. Beautiful Boy is just the pain and specifically the pain of on the father (and to a much lesser extent the mother) as he sees this wretched drug (and other drugs) start eating away all the hope and promise his son had. The best scene in the entire film is in an act of desperation David goes down to a run-down black neighbourhood (of course… rolls eyes) to score some Meth and snorts a line in his office.

It’s a film the Academy will eat up and probably won’t win anything come February but will get a fair few nominations. You come for the performances by the two leads and besides the well-chosen classic rock soundtrack that’s all you get from the film besides the obvious ‘drugs are bad for you and don’t do any’. It’s worth seeing but it’s not essential and better films have tackled similar subject matter.

Beautiful Boy opens in the UK on 18th January 2019.

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