Monthly Archives: November 2018

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Book Review – The Lotus Caves

Category : Book Review

Author: John Christopher

Year: 1969

You may know John Christopher’s name in association with the Tripods Trilogy: The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire.  It’s a sci-fi series that’s often read to or by kids in middle school who like the challenge of themes, allusions, critical thinking, and moving past the simpler books of grade level.  I was first introduced to it in a gifted classroom around 5th grade, and I will always remember the stories fondly, partly, I’m sure, because of the time period and my age, not solely because the novels are phenomenal.  I don’t, honestly, remember them extremely well, so I’ve borrowed the first from the library and am going to read them to my own children.  But I also grabbed The Lotus Caves, a book Christopher wrote directly after Tripods, and another I remember from school but couldn’t quite conjure its details.  After a revisit, I now remember the simple points the author was attempting to make, and the talent with which he was able to convey them to such a young audience in such a short time.

In the year 2068, humans are living on the Moon in a colony that provides resources down to Earth.  You sign on for a number of years, make a certain amount of money, and then you make the return journey, but your children are raised in a place that they will always remember as home.  All humans live in a dome called the Bubble, a place where nothing is wasted, most things are artificial, and there aren’t many variations or choices.  For Marty, especially when his best friend leaves to return to Earth, these restrictions chaff, and he longs to break a few rules, go out on his own, do something different, anything to break the monotony of life in the Bubble.  When he makes a new friend, Steve, they hatch an idea that will definitely get them into trouble but will sure be fun while it lasts.  They commandeer a land rover, taking it for a spin out on the surface, with the intention of coming right back once they’ve had their fun.  But the rover falls into a hole, which leads to a series of caves underground, and what they find living there goes beyond anything they could have imagined, and might not be willing to let them leave.

The Lotus Caves is definitely a book targeted at younger audiences, I’d say anywhere from 8-12 depending on reading level and comprehension, but it’s still an enjoyable read for adults as well, at least for those who remember Mid-Grade fiction fondly and don’t mind revisiting it sometimes.  The themes are really interesting: growing up, growing old, finding independence, loving something/someone more than yourself, parents, authority, even God.  There’s no lack of conversation embedded in this story, and I’m excited for my daughter to read it so that we can talk about what she thinks it means, since I know the points in novels often change as we ourselves change (look no further than The Giver for an example on that idea).  And as far as purely technical writing goes, Christopher exhibited talent with his followup to the series that will always define him, giving us a really solid piece of literature to share with the younger and remember as we get older.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Category : Movie Review

Director: Marielle Heller

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells

Year: 2018

Melissa McCarthy attempts to make the transition from comedy to drama in time to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a true story with a ton of themes and some real talent supporting them.  We’ve seen many actors try it before; Steve Carell is currently continuing down the same path, turning comedic stardom into awards consideration with heavy roles that catch our attention not only because of their weight, but also because of who is attempting to fill them.  McCarthy is a natural comedian, I don’t think that can be argued against, even if her style is not your style, but she has yet to prove herself as an all-around, top-quality actress, which is exactly what she attempts here.  However, though the film itself is strong, she simply proves the opposite; that she is not up to the caliber of her co-stars and most likely doesn’t have the ability to get there.

Based on real events and a memoir written by the author of these events, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the story of biographer Lee Israel’s crimes against the literary world, but also her struggle to survive the loneliness and desperation of a life that didn’t turn out the way she had planned.  Lee gained a small amount of fame for her books, lived in New York City, tried to write more original pieces, but never developed as a professional, to the point that she ran out of money and out of options.  The plan she turned to was a simple but illegal one; write letters under the guise that they were penned by famous authors, pass them off as real, and sell them to collectors who couldn’t know their authenticity.  For a time it worked, and she, along with her partner in arms Jack Hock, made a healthy profit.  But crime doesn’t pay, at least not in the long run, a truth that would hit Lee Israel hard sooner rather than later.

This is a wild true story, partly because you completely understand how Lee got herself in this situation, and you sympathize with her, at least partially.  She isn’t evil, she paid her penalty, wrote a book about her crimes, and now here we are, so I guess audiences can make their own judgements, but the film definitely comes from a perspective of understanding.  That’s not to say that the filmmakers condone her actions, it’s complicated, and you’ll just have to watch for yourself to see where you stand on the subject.  Regardless, it’s a well-made movie, asks interesting questions, and presents a fascinating plot, so watch for those aspects alone.  But don’t watch expecting Melissa McCarthy to transform into Amy Adams; it’s just not happening.  She’s not talented enough to fit in with those who have the chops, and her co-stars most definitely do, exposing her as an actor who’s trying, not an actor who’s already there.  Grant was phenomenal, Wells was great too, and they shone as side characters, brightening every scene in which they appeared.  But ultimately the film was all in on McCarthy, make or break on her performance, and I just don’t think she was capable of doing enough to carry the project.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Maniac

Category : Movie Review

Creators: Cary Joji Fukunaga, Patrick Somerville

Starring: Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Justin Theroux

Year: 2018

Is the Year of Jonah Hill happening right now?  I think so, and I think I like it.  Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot was an under-the-radar success, Maniac is an incredibly original Netflix mini-series, he just hosted Saturday Night Live, and then there’s Mid90s, which he wrote and directed and which is one of my absolute favorites.  I’d say that’s a pretty good 2018, the kid is really coming into his own, and he’s definitely come a long way since he & Emma Stone starred together in Superbad in 2007; seems much longer than 11 years ago, seems like another age altogether.  But here they are back together again to lead this oddball creation, and I can’t imagine that any other duo would have sufficed.  Maniac is a niche drama for sure, it can’t possibly land well with all audiences, but its entire team gave their entire attention to making it a wacky yet wonderful surprise hit.

In the near future or a similar universe or a neighboring plane or something like that, two distinctly lost souls will find each other in the strangest place possible.  Owen is the psychologically disturbed misfit son of a wealthy family who has never felt like part of the love, and who gets secret, imagined instructions from a brother he doesn’t have telling him to stay alert because he’s gonna save the world soon.  Annie is an addict who has lost her family to tragedy, someone who is on the verge of giving up and has no one to turn to.  Both sign up, for very different reasons, for a clinical trial at a giant pharmaceutical company’s headquarters, testing a drug they know nothing about.  It’s purpose is to replace therapy; to force your mind to remember the most traumatic event of your life, to outwit your defenses, and to force you to confront your demons.  It’s all led by a supercomputer who has gotten too smart and scientists who are only half sane and half capable; what could go wrong?

I’ve never seen anything quite like Maniac.  Futuristic, alternative, sci-fi, comedic, so so weird; and that’s just the foundation.  AI, rainbows, elves, gangsters, lemurs, magic, psychosomatic blindness; this plot will go anywhere it wants and you can’t possibly stop it.  Each episode is unique, some take you into fantasy realms, some into dreams, some stay in the prison-like facility, some force the leads to face their worst nightmares in order to get past them.  There’s a lot going on here, to say the least, and you need to be sucked in from the beginning in order to enjoy it, because otherwise I think it would just come across as plain weird.  Hill and Stone put on a ton of hats for these 10 episodes, and they are great in each, especially Stone, who I have rarely seen better.  But I think Theroux steals the show; he’s perfect as the unstable creator of the entire program, even making the artificial intelligence in the form of his overbearing mother, played by Sally Field.  Netflix got it right this time around, with a quirky short-run series that’s full of dark thoughts and pure entertainment.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Sports – NFL Picks 2018, Week 10

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Week 10 Picks

(9-4 last week, 63-49-2 for the season)

Bye teams: Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Vikings

 

Car @ Pit

NO @ Cin

Atl @ Cle

Det @ Chi

Ari @ KC

NE @ Ten

Was @ TB

Buf @ NYJ

Jax @ Ind

LAC @ Oak

Sea @ LAR

Mia @ GB

Dal @ Phi

NYG @ SF

 


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DVD Review – Destination Wedding

Category : DVD Review

Director: Victor Levin

Starring: Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves

Year: 2018

There exists a group of fans and critics who remember the duo of Ryder and Reeves from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and have loved them ever since.  Reeves has had the better career, Ryder has had her moments, both are currently working hard (John Wick, Stranger Things), and here they are together again in a romantic comedy that relies almost expressly on their likeability factor and their chemistry.  Problem is, there also exists a contingent (of which I am a part) that never thought these two were capable actors in any way, that never wanted to watch them together once more, and that has been proven right by this incredibly awful attempt at cinema.

The Movie

Lindsay and Frank have both been invited to a destination wedding in central California, and they both would rather die than go.  But they each have their reasons for attending, reasons for showing their faces in a place they’d much rather avoid, and will go in spite of their disgust.  Lindsay dated the groom and wants some closure after he broke her heart only weeks before their own engagement.  She can’t stand him, but also loves him, and can’t stay away from the wedding that she know will destroy her.  Frank is the groom’s brother, but that doesn’t mean they’re close.  He hates his sibling, never wants to see him again, but feels obligated by the duty inherent to his birth to at least show up.

Despite their shared reluctance to travel to celebrate the wedding of a couple they’d rather never hear from again, both Lindsay and Frank make the flight, and, as chance would have it, they meet.  They sit next to one another, they share a shuttle, their hotel rooms are connected; it seems like fate has brought them together, and what an unhappy duo they make.  Lindsay can’t get over her ex, makes terrible decisions, and is sure she’ll never be content.  Frank is a career pessimist, breaks life down into unbearable moments, and hates other humans.  That these people, connected by other people, would be the specific people for each other is unbelievably hard to believe, but love is most definitely strange.

I relish saying “I told you so” and will say it as loud as is needed; I just don’t have anyone specific to direct it to.  Neither Ryder nor Reeves is talented enough to be anything other than a footnote, and it’s shocking that they’ve made careers off of that fact.  Ryder has had a resurgence with Stranger Things, but she’s the absolute worst part of that show, which is obvious to anyone who is really watching.  Reeves worked well in both John Wick movies, but that’s an exception to the rule; he most often is simply silly.  Both come together here and neither has the talent to carry the story through to the end, failing to make even a short run time bearable in the least.

Destination Wedding was attempting to be a Woody Allen movie, one in which the main characters simply converse and expound and sound witty, which is the problem with this casting, since neither lead actor has the ability to do any of that.  Woody Allen 30 years ago could have been in this film, and his costar could have been any number of great actresses, but this casting simply didn’t work, and so neither did the movie.  It was short, sweet, funny at times, never hard to watch, but it required audiences to come in loving the leads and forgiving them their inabilities; if that’s not you there’s no way to enjoy this film.  Clever writing can’t save actual execution, and the result isn’t pretty.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen), the video quality of the DVD is much better than the movie itself.  The locale is beautiful, the picture is nice, and the cinematography is simple; this film is enjoyable to see, just not to watch.

Audio – The disc is done in English Dolby Digital 5.1, with an option of Descriptive Video Service.  Subtitles are available in English SDH.  Even the music sounded like a Woody Allen film, with a constant background track that kept the mood casual.

Extras – There are no special features available.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  I could get behind this idea, this script, this comedy, but not these actors; that’s where the filmmakers messed up.  Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti just performed magic in Private Life, a very heavy drama with beautiful moments of humor; imagine what they could have done with this film and these parts.  They could have been hilarious and perfect, they could have called it Sideways 2: On Location, and all my dreams could have come true.  Instead, Destination Wedding is what it is, a movie that’s deceptively appealing but desperately awful.  The video is nice, the audio is quaint, there aren’t any special features, so the technical side is a mixed bag.  I just wish different choices had been made, because this movie had potential; the result was simply poor.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Wildlife

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Dano

Starring: Ed Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

Year: 2018

Paul Dano’s directorial debut is also his screenwriting debut, pairing up with girlfriend Zoe Kazan to adapt this book and bring it to life right in time for Oscar season.  Kazan has previously written Ruby Sparks, an original, and an excellent film as well, in which she delivers an excellent performance.  But the pair have never written together, Dano has never directed, and so Wildlife would mark a major step forward toward awards and recognition.  They chose a leading duo wisely, Mulligan & Gyllenhaal, two phenomenal actors who, now in the heart of their 30s, have mastered their craft.  And Oxenbould as a vehicle for audiences is a smart choice as well, allowing us to enter into the plot and to witness events through his eyes.  Wildlife is still, however, an amateur attempt, and it shows, resulting in a film that’s a great start but not perhaps the debut sensation we were hoping to see.

Based on the novel by the same name, Wildlife is a story of disenchantment and decay, of a marriage collapsing and its eyewitness the one person hurt most by its fall.  The year is 1960, and the Brinson family has just moved to Montana for work.  Jerry works at a golf course, Jeanette stays at home, and Joe is a teenager starting at a new school.  When overzealous Jerry gets fired from his job, the family dynamic changes, with Jean looking for work and even Joe pitching in.  Jerry’s masculinity is threatened, and he takes work fighting a fire in the mountains, a gig that seems more like abandonment then vocation.  Jean begins seeing another man, and Joe watches it all as he tries to keep his own life in some semblance of order.

Oxenbould is Australian, Mulligan is English, and Gyllenhaal is from LA, so each of them has work to do to fit the role of a Northwest family constantly on the move throughout the States, and none of them do the job particularly well.  Each tries a specific accent/pattern/affectation and it’s fine if you don’t notice that type of thing, but I do, so it’s something that bothered me slightly throughout the film.  And that wasn’t the only problem I had with Wildlife.  The pacing was very poor, sleepy at times, and not enough happened in general, there weren’t enough elements for me to latch onto to really feel invested in what I was watching.  On the positive side, all the actors performed admirably, no one stuck out as weak, and I was fascinated watching each one’s flaws and how they contributed to the inevitable end.  I simply can’t say that I loved this film or that I was stunned by Dano’s & Kazan’s creation, especially since I came in with high expectations.  The result was rather more mediocre than I wanted it to be, a well-crafted movie that offered me very little that was either remarkable or memorable.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Ruby Sparks

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina

Year: 2012

Zoe Kazan’s screenwriting debut, Faris & Dayton’s followup to Little Miss Sunshine, and Paul Dano’s resurrection after 5 years of bad roles, Ruby Sparks marks a pivotal point that, sadly, went mostly unnoticed and definitely underappreciated.  I missed it as it went by, even being a fan of this directing pair’s amazing ensemble piece, and of Dano’s work in There Will Be Blood.  Zoe Kazan I wouldn’t learn to love until later, but she’s now one of my favorite actors, and I hope she continues to write as well (her new film Wildlife is just coming out, review to follow shortly).  Incidentally, I watched Ruby Sparks in preparation for Wildlife; I wanted to see Kazan’s writing debut before I saw Paul Dano’s directing debut.  But if that’s too much information about actors and directors and writer and upcoming projects, let me make it a little more simple; Ruby Sparks is an excellent movie that I wish I had seen earlier.

Calvin is a writer who struck gold young, but who has been struggling ever since.  A book he wrote when he was 19 was labelled as a future American classic, he wrote some short stories in the time that followed, his fans still support him, the money is still there, but he’s been blocked from producing anything else of value, and he needs to find out why before he explodes.  Isolation, therapy, a dog; nothing helps, he simply can’t come up with an original idea, and he doesn’t know where to turn.  Inward might be a good idea, which is exactly what happens by accident one night when Calvin dreams of this perfect girl, this angel named Ruby who is everything he’s ever wanted from a partner.  Upon waking, he immediately begins writing Ruby into existence, but little does he know that she’s actually coming alive, and will soon be a real, red-blooded, human girlfriend living in his house with no knowledge that Calvin made her up.

I think the first thing we have to do is talk about how wonderful Zoe Kazan is.  As an actor, she’s been building pressure under our feet over the years until we can no longer ignore her presence: The Savages, Fracture, Revolutionary Road, Meek’s Cutoff, Ruby Sparks, The Pretty One, What If, In Your Eyes, The Big Sick.  She might make a misstep every once in a while (I didn’t list all the movies you’ve never heard of or that are plain bad), but every actor does, especially when they are willing to experiment, and she hits home runs more than she strikes out.  And now she’s writing, which is excellent, and now Paul Dano is directing, which is phenomenal, and also they’re a couple, which, I don’t know, I just find adorable.  But back to Ruby, which I think is simply radiant.  The plot is so fun, Calvin is so neurotic, Ruby is so magical, they play so well off each other, and the side characters are brought to life perfectly by Chris Messina, Elliott Gould, Steve Coogan, Annette Bening, & Antonio Banderas.  It’s a feel-good film, but one that’s also well-developed, has depth, and features a terrifying moment depicting the abuse of control one person can have over another, which is a sobering and necessary message.  I can’t wait for more from this pair; glad I don’t have to.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Sports – Covers.com NFL Picks

Category : Sports

NFL Picks, presented by Covers.com

Tonight, for only the second time, Aaron Rodgers will meet Tom Brady in an NFL game, though the two won’t see each other on the field until they shake hands after.  Once before these future Hall of Famers played in the same game, years ago.  But the next time the Packers faced the Patriots, Rodgers was out with a concussion, making the victors triumph not quite as well-won.  This matchup, however, will be one for the ages, as rarely do we see two quarterbacks of this caliber face off.  Plus it’s primetime.  Plus it’s midseason.  Plus both are at the top of their game.  And with Father Time sneaking up, this might be the last chance we have of watching these greats play.  We’ll pray for a Super Bowl faceoff, but that’s a few months away; for now, we focus on these men, these icons, their stats, and how that affects who we will eventually pick to win this colossal game.

Aaron Rodgers

Games Played: 156

Passing Touchdowns/Interceptions: 326/79

Passing Yards: 40,785

Rushing Touchdowns/Fumbles: 25/16

Rushing Yards: 2,786

Completion Percentage: 64.9%

QB Rating: 103.6

 


Tom Brady

Games Played: 261

Passing Touchdowns/Interceptions: 504/167

Passing Yards: 68,359

Rushing Touchdowns/Fumbles: 19/28

Rushing Yards: 997

Completion Percentage: 64.0%

QB Rating: 97.6

 

So the debate begins; who is the better quarterback?  And in this game; who will win?  I pick the Patriots to take this game, but that doesn’t mean I think Brady is better than Rodgers; it’s much more complicated than that.  Brady will win because the Patriots are simply that good at home, where this game will take place Sunday Night in New England.  But I think that Rodgers is not only the best QB in this scenario, but also one of the best QBs to ever play that game.  There’s a case for Brady on that list as well, some think he’s the Greatest Of All Time, but I couldn’t disagree more.  Brady has benefited from coach Bill Belichick to a degree that’s immeasurable, and the Patriots should go down as perhaps the best team (through a specific span of time) to play the game.  Rodgers, meanwhile, is spectacular completely on his own, and has not benefited from great coaching or, honestly, a great supporting cast.  In my opinion, Rodgers is the 3rd best quarterback of all-time, behind only Joe Montana and John Elway.  His ability to scramble, to escape, to improvise, and to win despite all odds is uncanny, and no other player compares.  Tonight we will see an unmatched matchup and hopefully an incredible game, and no matter who loses, we win.

Visit Covers.com for all your sports betting needs, as well as expert analysis, picks, odds, and news from around the world of sports.  NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAAF, NCAAB, & more; Covers has you covered.

 


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Movie Review – Halloween (2018)

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Gordon Green

Starring: Andi Matichak, Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer

Year: 2018

Another installment of the Halloween franchise comes along right in time for the end of October and we line up to pay our respects, despite the fact that the series died long ago and that, if you look at it with a critical, non-nostalgic eye, the original wasn’t any good in the first place.  Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and Haddonfield will forever live in the annals of film history for what they gave to the horror genre, but their importance should have stayed in the past with their release, because every followup since has been a disappointment and a reminder that the franchise is weak to begin with.  Halloween (2018) is no exception, regardless of box office numbers or critic opinions; the entertainment this film brings is solely based on nostalgia and a couple key components which, when set to the side with a discerning eye, reveal a foundation that’s always been crumbling away.

It’s been years since Michael’s last attack, but Laurie is always at the ready, preparing her house like a doomsday shelter in case he were to ever come back to town.  In theory he can’t, he’s locked away for life, but a transfer to a new location might be the chance he needs to escape and continue his deadly work.  Laurie’s daughter Karen could never stomach her mother’s paranoia, became a therapist instead, and distanced herself from an aging woman who appears to be losing her mind.  Laurie’s granddaughter.  Allyson still wants a family connection, but she doesn’t believe in the threat that looms, can’t imagine what living through that horror might be like.  But Halloween night is approaching, and Michael will soon be free, coming back to Haddonfield to finish the job he started all those year ago.

I’ll start with the positives, because, before fans of the flicks run me out of town, there are many within this movie and within the series.  I enjoy this pillar of a franchise as much as the next person, I’ve seen my fair share, grew up watching them on TV, and I understand their inherent worth, what they’ve given us in terms of pure terror.  And this newest edition brings back a little of the former glory, giving us a taste of 1978 in a way that none of the sequels could ever really muster.  The music and the murders are all you probably came to see and care to see, and you won’t leave disappointed; those are the strongest elements by far.  A strong beginning, that theme song, some gruesome deaths; audiences get what they paid for, and in terms of scares and gross outs no one is left short changed.  If that’s all you came to see, try to ignore a lot of the rest, focus on the fright, and you’ll go home happy.

It’s the other 75% that fails, the meat of the movie that spoils, and I personally couldn’t ignore the details enough to fully enjoy the fun, which is why I can’t stamp this movie with a seal of approval.  For disclosure; I don’t love the original or the franchise, I find it fine but not impressive, perhaps I didn’t watch it early enough to have it fully imprinted on my young mind.  And so I can’t get past the film aspects to focus solely on the movie parts, can’t ignore the creation to find pleasure in the destruction, if you will.  The biggest problem is the acting; it’s simply horrendous.  I know horror movies aren’t known for their chops, but Jamie Lee Curits was so bad it was distracting, so mind-numbingly awful that it made you question whether your memory of her as a professional actress was all a dream.  It’s unforgivable, and no one else helps out either, the rest of the cast feeling like people grabbed off the streets.  The editing is amateur, the pacing is a problem, the ending is stupid, and I refuse to bow down to what should be a collective legend if what they offer me is crap.  There is fun to be had if you want to pretend the periphery doesn’t exist, but you’re going to have to put in some work to make that happen, and I’m just not sure it’s worth it.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Beautiful Boy

Category : Movie Review

Director: Felix van Groeningen

Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney

Year: 2018

With a heart-burdening true story about addiction experienced from two sides, Beautiful Boy was immediately poised as an Oscar-contender upon its release.  Its trailers had us weeping in our seats before it even came out, and for anyone who has ever dealt with a drug addition themselves or in their family, this dramatized account of true life seemed almost too heavy and real to bear.  On top of that, no young actor is currently more powerful than Timothee Chalamet, both in performance and in momentum; he was the perfect choice to play this part correctly and in the necessary style.  I only wish that the final product, the sitting down and viewing, had been as impressive as the preparation, for while Beautiful Boy is unarguably moving, its also far too unsupported to be considered an incredible film.

Based on the dual memoirs of father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy is a tale of disease and choice, of habit and home, and of the terrible moments in life that only serve to show how strong the family bond can be.  David and his wife Vicki were divorced when their only son Nic was quite young, sharing him between two cities and two worlds in a way that no child should have to be split.  But he grew up strong, smart, independent, hungry for knowledge and experiences and deep emotions, which perhaps led him down a path toward narcotics, searching for an ever-impressive feeling.  In and out of rehab, disappearing for months, changing decisions on a whim; Nic’s life was out of control, and there was only ever so much that his parents could do.  Now with a new wife and two young children, David would be forced to decide how far his support should reach, how much was too much, and what could ever make him abandon his beloved son to the unforgiving streets and to his quickly impending death.

That this story is true, that these stories are true, is almost too much to take in.  It’s almost more than we can handle, the job of watching a family be torn apart, a son slowly kill himself, a father standing helplessly by.  But it’s also so important that we see this, that we understand what addiction looks like from inside a home, that we start to conceptualize the duality of disease and choice, how they exist at the same time in the same body.  Beautiful Boy puts that all on display for us, unapologetically and in raw form, so that we can live through it ourselves (at least as far as possible), so that we learn something from some one else’s life-long struggle.  If you know someone like Nic, if you are someone like Nic, there’s a message of hope and support here, somewhere underneath all the despair, that you really need to hear.

That doesn’t mean that the cast and crew deliver the message seamlessly, but at least they tried, and while that may seem juvenile, I don’t think it’s foolishly naive to be proud of a movie that isn’t afraid to show the ugliest sides of something but also the love inherent within the struggle.  But back to it; I wish the film and, more specifically, the plot had been a bit better supported, because more than one amazing actor was needed to carry the entire project across the finish line.  And Chalamet is that good; he puts every actor in every other scene in which he appears next to them to shame, he’s simply so overwhelmingly special.  He just wasn’t enough, he couldn’t do it all on his own, and while I even think he should get an Oscar nod, I don’t think anyone can say the same about anything else.  The action was repetitive and tired, the pace choppy and amateur, Carell was never up to the task given him, and the actresses in the movie were all, across the board, horrible: Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever.  Beautiful Boy is a misfire if you look at it as a contender, a potential success if you look at it as a helping hand, so its quality depends on your expectations, which is not, as you know, new.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆