Addiction Portrayal In ‘Beautiful Boy’
01/07/19: Addiction \ Drug Addiction
In the last year, we have seen Hollywood produce some very successful movies about addiction. The only problem with these movies is that they can not authentically tell stories about addiction. However, one of the most recent movies, ‘Beautiful Boy’, has been one of the authentic ones.
Movies about addiction will typically leave some important questions unanswered. Questions that remain unanswered in these movies typically look like “how does the addiction affect the family?” or “Can this person recover?” Rather than answer these questions, movies about addiction will typically leave them unanswered or give an inaccurate depiction of recovery. Often times, a character in these movies will recover through undying love or will power, or a character becomes out of control and overdoses. Though these depictions are harsh realities, they are not the only realities.
Addiction is complicated and it can be hard to tell a story about it in just 2 hours. Typically, Hollywood will push out bite-sized stories that grab the audience's attention through shock or emotion. The problem with these kinds of stories is that they do not leave a lasting effect on audiences. Most people who come home from watching ‘A Star is Born’ will not go home thinking about the struggles of addiction, they will go home thinking about the emotional and tragic love story told in the movie. However, the movie ‘Beautiful Boy’ has done an excellent job at depicting the reality of addiction.
The Reality of Addiction
Addiction is not an easy thing to understand and it’s not an easy thing to beat. When movies do acknowledge this, they make the addict seem like less than human. But ‘Beautiful Boy’ changes the way movies depict addiction. One of the main characters, portrayed by Timothee Chalamet, is a young adult with nothing but good things going for him. However, a strong addiction to meth grabs hold of him and starts to ruin his life and all the good things he had.
This movie does an excellent job at depicting how addiction can ruin a person, how it affects the people around them, and how they can recover. In an interview promoting the movie, actor Timothee Chalamet says it was his goal to bring light to the world of addiction. Rather than just depicting the tragic side of addiction, he wanted to show audiences all aspects of addiction, not just what happens to the addict. The actor is quoted saying, “I have friends that have gone through this and I don’t see them as addicts but as humans.”
‘Beautiful Boy’ is a Hollywood adaptation that is very true to the original story. This movie is based on the true experiences of David and Nic Sheff, the real-life father and son who experienced addiction and all that comes along with it. Both David and Nic have written their own memoirs of the events they went through together, which producer Felix Van Groeningen based the movie off of.
When Felix decided to use both memoirs to tell the whole story, he encapsulated the full story from both the family’s side and the addict's side. Steve Carell plays the father of a troubled and addicted teenager, played by Timothee Chalamet. The film is brutally honest and expertly portrays both sides of the story, the father’s and the son’s struggle with this illness.
The Brutal Honesty
Though movies about addiction can be accurate in some aspects, they, sadly, miss the point of addiction stories most of the time. Beautiful Boy doesn’t take the easy way out and tell a story about addiction, it tells a story about addiction, how it affects someone outside of their health, how it affects other things in their lives, and how they can recover. This movie is beautifully, but brutally honest. It tells the audience the messy truths of addiction with unsettling truths. Beautiful Boy tells audiences that addiction is messy and that recovery can be messy too, it’s not always so easy.
The movie depicts addiction perfectly. The once “perfect child” became corrupted by addiction and started to show ugly, abnormal, and self-destructive behaviors. Though the behaviors displayed in the movie seem selfish and terrible on the surface, it does an excellent job at making sure people realize it is not Nic that is choosing to act like this. Rather, the movie makes sure to let audiences know it is the disease of addiction that is causing Nic to act in such malicious ways. Addiction is not a choice, it is a disease, and Beautiful Boy captures this thinking perfectly.
The Truth of Relapse
Nic’s addiction in this movie is portrayed excellently. As in real life, there is often no addiction without relapse. Audiences may be frustrated at the fact that Nic constantly slips in and out of his addiction, relapsing right back into what is ruining his life. People may ask “Why is he constantly slipping back into his addiction even though it is hurting him and his family?” Questions like these will be asked by people who fail to see the realities of addiction.
Unfortunately, addiction cannot always be cured through love or will power. Addiction is a disease that needs treatment, sometimes even life-long treatment. Though the movie does not answer all questions about addiction, it expertly describes what it’s like for an addict and the people who love the addict. As the movie ends, there is no real resolution to Nic’s addiction, mirroring what may happen in real life. Addiction isn’t always so clean cut as other Hollywood productions may lead people to think. It is an ongoing battle and it is in no way easy to fight against. Recovery is a fragile process and there is no way to go back to the way things used to be.
Beautiful Boy is a truly fantastic movie that depicts what is it like for an addict and their loved ones. Addiction not only affects the addict, but nearly everything and everyone around them. Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet do an excellent job of telling the story of Nic and David and how addiction affected each of them. David tries desperately to save his son from his addiction, while Nic slowly falls deeper and deeper into the grasps of addiction. This movie does something that many Hollywood movies do not do, and that is show the true reality of addiction. Hollywood has long faulted when telling stories about addiction. After a movie like Beautiful Boy, maybe Hollywood will see that their usual stories about addiction need changes.
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