TIFF: Pedantic 'Beautiful Boy' is saved by two strong lead performances

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"Beautiful Boyis a film that means well and that may be its biggest problem. It was a little too on-the-nose for my tastes and its emotions felt hardly earned in its tackling of the way drug addiction can affect a family's inner workings.
Director Felix Van Groeningen (Broken Circle Breakdown) adapts two memoirs (from real-life father and son David and Nic Sheff) into his first American film, which is bogged down by a lackluster screenplay filled with cliches and melodramatic moments.
David (Steve Carell) lives with son Nic (an excellent Timothee Chalamet), and second wife Karen (Maura Tierney) in their comfortable San Francisco home. Major problems arise when Nic becomes addicted to Methamphetamine. The movie then, for the duration of its 112 or so minutes, goes back and forth between Nic's continuous cycle of relapse and recovery.
For a movie with considerable talents involved, "Beautiful Boy" lacks the dramatic fireworks needed to break through the genre conventions at hand. However, Groeningen isn't a risky enough visualist to achieve his take on this all-too-familiar story. Even worse, his penchant for using music to amp up the tears feels maudlin and unearned, safe for a rare, successful musical montage comes when at the tail-end of this never-ending film as the director uses Perry Como's version of “Sunrise, Sunset," to showcase a touching little montage of father and son's happier moments.
On a more positive note, any doubts that Chalamet's breakthrough performance in "Call Me By Your Name" would be a one-time deal are easily vanquished by his passionate take here of Nic. If anything, he deserves more screentime in this film, which has a few stretches where he completely disappears from the story. Carrel, a comedic actor that has proven over time to be a solid dramatic one, also makes the best of a rather underdeveloped role. [C]