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Beautiful Boy

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy earns an adjective that is rare and not always welcome: Important. How many people will go to this movie that is about drugs from beginning to end? For some, the answer to that is some version of “why would I want to see a movie about drugs? For others, it offers an extraordinary lifeline.

The why of that has deep and confusing roots. Our world was changed overnight by the sudden arrival of computers. For a few years we celebrated the fact that a deep research tool had been brought into our homes, that communications among family and friends had become instant. Then, gradually, as they always do, opportunists invaded and infected the extraordinary new medium with negatives – the exchange of information, the location, and availability of drugs is now immediate and nationwide.

Add to that the grim truth that some previously decent drug companies began handing their unproven drugs free to doctors who prescribed them for patients before the harmful effects were known. Doctors then reported the results, positive and negative, back to the drug companies that had given them the unproven samples. Many in our citizenry became addicted to the powerful drugs without ever knowing they had been part of an experiment. Drug companies got free research; Doctors got free drugs for sick patients.

Eighteen year old Nic Steff (Timothy Chalamet) is the beautiful boy here, so labelled by his adoring father David (Steve Carell). David is married to his second wife (Maura Tierney) and reaches out to his first (Amy Ryan) for help with their now drug addicted son. Nic is a good guy who works his way through various stages of drug addiction until he is caught completely by crystal-meth. Timothy Chalamet does a beautiful job of showing us the savage capture of the boy by the drug.

The movie becomes the story of an endangered boy who loves his father deeply and is loved in return. This is not an angry boy running off and indulging himself. It is the far worse tale of a son who worked his way through that first phase to being caught entirely and violently by one of the most dangerous drugs of all.

The sad tale is acted so well by Timothy Chalamet and Steve Carell that it becomes a lesson for anyone in the audience who might be suffering a drug problem in his/her family. They lead us through Nic’s addiction process from alcohol to pot to cocaine to LSD to the crippling crystal-meth.

Writer/director Felix Van Groeningen injects just enough happy memories of past father/son fun – surfing, hiking, laughing – to make us realize deeply that Nic was captured by the drug rather than by seeking it out as an escape. For anyone caught in the search for solution, this is a powerful trip through the newly available avenues to rescue. As the leading cause of death under 50, there is help for those who reach for it.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Beautiful Boy
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:00
Rating : R
Date : November 4, 2018

 

A Private War

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

A Private War

Few things are more interesting than exploring the personality traits of a thoroughly unusual person. A Private War does just that in a compelling way as it gives us a portrait of Marie Colvin, a London Times reporter whose motivations are a fascinating puzzle. Her true story is handed to us by actor Rosamund Pike under the direction of Matthew Heineman in a riveting film.

It is easy to say that this is the story of a dedicated reporter who is emotionally caught in the multiple tragedies of the Middle Eastern wars that have been killing thousands of people during recent decades. What is harder is deciphering the degree of Marie Colvin’s determination to deliver to the world, at great personal risk, the reality of the erasure of those thousands of people.

As a columnist for the Times, Colvin knows that to convey tragedy she must go to the places where it is unfolding. “You have to find the truth of it. You have to find the human cost of the act.” Colvin loses an eye in a brutal battle in Sri Lanka and goes back for more as we watch her compulsive smoking and drinking begin to swallow her. Though her friend warns that she has post-traumatic stress disorder, that never reduces her emotional need to educate the public about the tragedy of the violence.

Her editor at the Times (Tom Hollander in a quiet, terrific performance), tells her “you have a God given talent to make people feel,” as he tries to keep her safe – to no avail. Her response to those who try to keep her home, “I feel we have failed if we don’t tell the horrors.”

By the time the film shifts to Syria in 2012, we understand on a deep level that this is a woman who refuses to live in safety while others are suffering. She watches a whole generation dying of sickness, cold, and bullets without medical doctors or medicines to help them as they die. When Colvin turns from writing to broadcasting about the violence, she becomes a visible target. She dies in the field and since then, 500,000 innocent people have died.

This determined columnist gave the world the truth, but the world, upset though we may be, stops following because we believe there is nothing we can do. The power of this movie is the truth conveyed by one columnist dedicated to forcing the world to see what the Syrian regime was doing to an entire generation of innocent people.

Marie Colvin rivets us to the truth of what unfolds in this world of death while most of us pass it by as we read the newspapers each day. Credit Rosamund Pike with a performance that she developed while studying TV recordings of Colvin’s voice and way of moving. Pike studied and understood the depth of Marie Colvin and hands her complexity to us in a riveting way.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : A Private War
Word Count : 497
Running Time : 1:46
Rating : R
Date : October 28, 2018