Take a Drink: every time Sheen and Bello’s emotional distance is emphasized
Take a Drink: every time Bello butts into her sister in law’s bizness
Take a Drink: when the characters (finally?) do
Do a Shot: for TV talking heads
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
There’s a subgenre of films focused on the psychology of school shooters that has generally produced interesting results- Elephant, There’s Something About Kevin, The Dirties… something about examining such an alien mentality produces great creativity.
And monumentally creepy Tilda Swinton performances
Beautiful Boy takes a slightly different direction, focusing on the parents (Michael Sheen and Maria Bello) of the shooter (Kyle Gallner) as they grapple with his actions and try to salvage their already failing relationship.
This film looks good at least, employing roving, close up-heavy photography and an intriguingly grainy filmstock to emphasize the characters’ alienation and depression. This is a very intense film, and the technical aspects, from that cinematography, to the sparse score, to Shawn Ku’s tight direction, all bolster that feeling.
Beautiful Boy is exactly like a Boy Scout troupe…
Michael Sheen also does great work here, among the best in his career, as the more apparently restrained partner, vying to restore some sense of normalcy in the face of this horrible event. It’s a façade, of course, and seeing it crumble is heartbreaking.
I wish I could feel the same way about Bello’s performance, but she insists on dancing on the edge of the OvertheTop Cliffs overlooking the Shrillyannoying Shoals a little too often (although I did like the evolution of her relationship with her sister-in-law).
Careful, it’ s a long, screechy fall.
This movie is slow as molasses on a winter day. Part of that may be that after the initial shock, there aren’t any surprises. This is especially apparent in the half-hearted stabs at answering “why” their son did this. All the usual suspects show up; unhappy marriage, Mom’s too controlling, Dad stays at work too long, the kid didn’t get enough attention, etc, etc.
Maybe the point is that there’s never any simple cause to point to in situations like this, and that’s certainly a valid tack to take, but you don’t need two hours to communicate it. Especially when the rest of the runtime is depicting your characters’ misery. “This sure sucks, don’t it?” isn’t much of a thesis.
Beautiful Boy is an expertly made, largely well-acted film on a compelling topic that unfortunately rings hollow.