I expected to cry copious tears at “Beautiful Boy,” an Amazon addiction drama based on two memoirs, one from journalist David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, the other memoir by his son, Nic. Both books chronicle David’s fierce battle to save his beloved son Nic — played by Timothee Chalamet — from the scourges of drug addiction.
But I didn’t cry, nor did I laugh, either. Which is part of the problem with Belgian director’s Felix van Groeningen’s detached, humorless and way too cold adaptation. Felix co-wrote the screenplay with Luke Davies, who wrote the much more warmer 2016 film, “Lion.” Carell gives a sensitive and affecting performance as the elder Sheff. The always-wonderful Chalamet shows us the manipulative, seductive and tormented life of an addict.
But this is where the director gets it wrong. He doesn’t use Carell’s gift for humor or pathos or Chalamet’s inherent charm. The audience I saw it with laughed at inappropriate parts simply for relief, or in advance of scenes where humor should have been used wisely. Steve Carell, an expert, is off track; this is a miss on his part. Maura Tierney as Nic’s stepmother Karen, and Amy Ryan as his mother are terrific and provide ballast.
To be fair, there are some tear jerking and genuine moments. But the editing is clunky, the story takes place in non chronological order giving us a peak at Nic’s childhood with his obvious artistic talent, then goes right into his crystal meth addiction. The clichéd music isn’t quite a right fit either. The performances are too be admired for sure, the rest of “Beautiful Boy,” not so much.