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Posts Tagged ‘“Ben is Back”’

Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges

“BEN IS BACK” My rating: B

113 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Before it goes belly up in the third act, Peter Hedges’ “Ben Is Back” presents itself as one of the more insightful films about drug addiction.

Like that other contemporary drug drama, “Beautiful Boy,” this one focuses on the relationship between a parent and an addicted child. But whereas “Beautiful Boy” was presented from the POV of an adult, “Ben…” focuses heavily on the young user.

Indeed, Lucas Hedges (the writer/director’s son) is both heartbreaking and terrifying as the title character, who pops up at his family’s suburban New York home on Christmas Eve when he was supposed to be in rehab.

His mom, Holly (Julia Roberts), finds herself welcoming her long-lost son even as she scurries about emptying the medicine cabinets. She wants to believe Ben when he tells her that his drug counselor okayed this Christmas visit, but after thousands spent on recovery programs and repeated relapses, she’s not getting her hopes up.

Her first outing with her newly returned son takes them to the local cemetery, where she bluntly asks Ben where he wants to be buried.  Or does he prefer cremation?

Ben’s teenage sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) is even more cynical. She as much as tells her brother that the family no longer needs his kind of trouble. (There are also a couple of very young step siblings, the result of Holly’s second marriage to Neal — played by Courtney B. Vance; his  deep pockets have financed Ben’s so-far-unsuccessful efforts to turn his life around.)

Still, Ben is so earnest and eager to please — playing with his stepbrother and stepsister, offering to do chores — that hearts melt a bit.

Hedges’ script is interesting in that it avoids actual drug use and the nuts and bolts of rehab, focusing instead on the human damage Ben has left behind.

Attending a local AA meeting, he meets a young woman to whom he used to sell drugs. She’s a wreck, and he feels at least partly responsible.

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