Beautiful Boy—Not Every Story Has a Happy Ending. Or Does it?
By Kimberly Grabiec
Movies and books related to addiction attempt to provide realistic representations, but lose their authenticity in trying to finish with either a concrete happy or sad ending. Unfortunately, such clear-cut realisations are fabricated, and these films end up diminishing their relatability.
“Beautiful Boy” undertakes the goal of removing the fictional elements from typical retellings of addiction. Based on a true story, it relays the harrowing tale of David’s struggles with understanding and accepting his son, Nic, as he struggles with drug addiction. The film shines a light on the effects of addiction on entire families, which are often ignored, by focusing on the emotional ups and downs of David, his wife, and his two kids apart from Nic.
Nic and David are played by Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell respectively. Coming off of two award-winning films, “Call Me By Your Name” and “Ladybird,” audiences were excited to see Chalamet’s take on yet another complicated teen role. People were also interested to see how Carell would mesh with a newer actor in such a dramatic plot, straying from Carell’s typical comedic style.
Felix Van Groeningen was not afraid to direct the movie to be as realistic as possible. Although this came with some repetition and low-intensity moments, it paid off in its effective representation of family struggle. Nic’s many relapses, as frustrating as they were to watch, gave insight into the family’s frustrations as well. As the title already suggests, “Beautiful Boy” did not villainize the son, making it all the more believable in a family setting. Parts of the movie lacked emotional highs for the audience to feed off of in order to stress the hopelessness of the family’s situation. Once again, this stylistic choice descended the film’s entertainment potential but instead made the events easier to understand in relation to real life cases of addiction.
The film was clearly streamlined in order to avoid any hints of glamorizing or sensationalizing drug use. This decision at times took away from the movie’s overall authenticity and created some confusion over why Nic got addicted in the first place. To fully show Nic’s intentions and inner turmoil, there should have been more of a focus on his devolvement into addiction instead of avoiding this in fear of possible encouragement of drug use.
The film incorporated many flashbacks, originally meant to signify a nostalgic view of Nic growing up, but soon served to describe David’s regrets and possible warning signs of Nic’s addiction. These dichotomies and others were consistent throughout the storyline, including David’s optimism in the face of hopelessness and Nic’s wittiness during serious conversation.
Adding on, stylistic contrasts made the movie all the more gripping. Beautiful shots and music mixed in with disturbing visual emotion added to the confusion and irony of the plot. Montages of bright, California scenery gave the audience glimmers of emotional relief and suggested optimism at points where the movie characters may have felt hope as well.
The ending of the movie was neither happy nor sad as it acknowledged that drug addiction is a constant struggle. While the movie ended and the credits began to roll in, it was clear that Nic’s story and its impact will never truly end.
Director: Felix Van Groeningen
Writers: Luke Davies, Felix Van Groeningen
Running Time: 2 hours