A postcard from a drug-land (Beautiful Boy movie review)

“Beautiful Boy”, directed by Felix Van Groeningen, is a story about destructive addiction that is put in a frame of a wonderful tale about strong, powerful love that a parent can feel only to his or hers child. The director talks about drugs in a way that seems to be a total reverse of other legendary movies about junkies. On the one hand – it’s pretty good that Groeningen doesn’t repeat the schemes of a show that is based on the pornography of violence and self-aggression, but on the other hand – the director falls into a trap of exaggerated anesthetization and creates a movie that is totally neuter – “Beautiful Boy” can be described neither as brutal nor as truly moving, because the narration misses the valour of honesty.

Nic (great  Timothée Chalamet) is an embodiment of nonsense of addiction – he starts to experiment with drugs because he can and not because he is battered by life and left alone in this scary, painful place that the world can be described as, but for a random reason that cannot be explained as caused by trauma or unbearable pain. The fact that Nic is presented that a rebel for no reason is the most refreshing part of the entire story, which – unfortunately – is totally trivialized by the frame of the myth of a great father who creates a perfect son who is not able of dealing with his own perfection (the main narration is interleaved with flash backs from Nic’s idyllic childhood). The director seems to be subtly suggesting that the boy’s tragic situation is his father’s (amazing Steve Carell) fault, which is the biggest inconsistency in the entire narration’s structure. It looks like Groeningen gets scared of the idea that addiction sometimes cannot be easily explained or motivated and desperately tries to put blame on dad with a tendency to idealize his kid. This thread gets even more ridiculous when you compare it with those scones in which Carell’s character starts to understand that there is nothing that he can do to save his son and that Nic is the only person that can make himself come back to life.

The director of “Beautiful Boy” doesn’t talk about drug addiction in a way that we could expect and with premeditation avoids nihilistic horror and scenes in which the protagonist reaches the bottom of the bottoms and balances on the edge of life and death, but the problem is that he doesn’t have too much to offer instead. The narration focuses on the father, his desperation and love that has no power of making life more beautiful or at least more bearable and it is pretty moving but at the same time it annoys by its conformity. It looks like every time the emotions and affects get too intense, Groeningen escapes to the world in which everything is beautiful.

The director idealizes not only the father, but also the boy’s fight is extremely aestheticized. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with avoiding brutal, violent images. We know that rule from the ancient theatre and we know that it can work. The problem with beautifulness of “Beautiful Boy” is that the visual narration seems to be motived only by conservative thoughts on mainstream audience that might not be ready for radical images of body’s and mind’s disintegration. What are important, dialogues and scenes in which the director decides to show the pain and fear are really stunning and devastating at the same time, but those rare epic moments won’t save the entire movie.