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Posts Tagged ‘drug addiction’

Timothee Chalamet, Steve Carell

“BEAUTIFUL BOY” My rating: B

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Drug addiction movies are a bit like Holocaust movies.

Even if the film is well made, the subject matter is tremendously off-putting and depressing. It takes something remarkable, a new way of looking at the topic, to make the painful bearable.

“Beautiful Boy” comes close. It is based on journalist David Sheff’s memoir of dealing with his son Nic’s addiction, as well as a second memoir by Nic.  There’s little emphasis here on the usual tropes of the genre…back-alley drug buys, spoons and needles, withdrawal agonies.

Instead the film puts a parent’s horror and anxiety front and center, and by doing so it forces every viewer — or at least those with children — to question how they would deal with a similar situation.

Coddle? Criticize? Wash your hands of an uncontrollable child?

At various points in Felix Van Groeningen’s film, all those options are examined. And it helps immeasurably that the film stars Steve Carell as the elder Sheff and the ever-resourceful Timothy Chalamet as his tormented son, Nic.

The  screenplay by Van Groningen and Luke Davis cleverly juggles its time frame, opening with a conversation between the deeply concerned David and a drug counselor and then employing a series of jumbled flashbacks to tell the story of this father and son.

A narratively straightforward, step-by-step depiction of young Nic’s descent into depravity might be too much to handle; by zigging and zagging between the family’s homey past and its uncomfortable present, the film offers an emotional buffer between the audience and the film’s inescapable angst.

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David

Kim Shaw and David Dastmalchian

“ANIMALS” My rating: B+

90 minutes | No MPAA rating

Years ago I decided I’d seen just about every permutation of the drug addict movie that I cared to see.

I hadn’t reckoned on “Animals.”

This feature debut from director Collin Schiffli and screenwriter David Dastmalchian (a former Overland Park resident who also stars and based the story on his own drug history) is a revelation, not so much for what it tells us about heroin as for what it tells us about the human capacity for love.

As the film starts out Jude (Dastmalchian) and Bobbie (Kim Shaw) are living out of their car. They’re junkies, but at this stage of their shared habit it all seems, well, romantic.

He’s thin and dark and kinda Goth.  She’s girl-next-door blond. They are clearly smitten with one another and determined to share everything — from physical intimacy to their stash.

Their days are spent hanging out near Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Schiffli occasionally punctuates the human story with shots of various animals in their cages at the nearby zoo — not-so-subtle symbolism and one of the few times when the film feels forced.

When we first meet the couple they’re what you might call middle-class junkies.  They can pass for normal. They don’t seem particularly desperate.  In fact, they’re enjoying themselves immensely.

They run nonviolent scams  — like shoplifting CDs and reselling them on the street –to get their hands on money and drugs.

If they need to up their income, Jude publishes an ad offering Bobbie’s sexual services. She’ll show up for a prearranged session at some lonely guy’s home, collect half the evening’s fee, and announce she has to deliver it to her pimp out in the car before any physical business gets underway.

She and Jude laugh all the way to their dealer.

The first half of “Animals” is about drug addicts who seem to think that their love will get them through anything.

The second half puts that thesis to the test. Which is stronger, romance or heroin? When your veins are twitching, are you selfless enough to give your last fix to that special someone?

Shot and performed in a naturalistic manner, “Animals” somehow manages to turn most of the drug cliches inside out, putting a human face where nowadays most of us like to think in terms of policy.

| Robert W. Butler

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