Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of BEAUTIFUL BOY

Beautiful Boy, rated R
*** ½

Beautiful Boy, showing now on Amazon Prime, is a well-written and acted film based on the real-life heartbreaking relationship between a father and his teenage son, who is battling drug addiction. The film is directed by Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown), who wrote the screenplay with Oscar nominee and recovering addict, Luke Davies (Lion), based on the books Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak by Nic Sheff. Because of this, we experience the story from both of their perspectives.
David Sheff, played by Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher, The Office) is a writer who lives in San Francisco. The film opens with him meeting with Dr. Brown, played by Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People), trying to find out more about meth addiction. The film then flashes back a year, a technique used often in the film to tell the backstory of David and now 18-year-old Nic Sheff, played by Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird), who received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.  Nic had been a happy and high performing high school student who enjoyed to read and draw. But now he is dealing with a dark hole, fed by his addiction to drugs and alcohol. We see in flashbacks that he and his father had shared a marijuana cigarette in the past, and that Nic’s drug addiction, which started with marijuana, has now progressed to include LSD, heroin and meth.
David is divorced from Vicki, played by Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, The Office). He now lives with second wife Karen, played by Golden Globe winner Maura Tierney (The Affair, The Office), and they have two adorable young children Jasper, played by Christian Convery, and Daisy, played by Oakley Bull.
David and Karen convince Nic to enter into an inpatient rehab program. The head of the rehab facility gives David hope, but is not honest about the success rate of curing meth addicts. This begins Nic’s ongoing battle to beat meth addiction, a battle that completely consumes his caring but controlling father, who for the most part is not present for Karen and their two young children. David desperately wants to help his son beat his addiction, wonders what he could have done differently, and at times both he and Nic’s mother Vicki, in frustration, blame each other for his troubles.
Themes include family, and specifically the relationship between a father and son, drug and alcohol addiction, recovery and relapse, trying to save someone, hope, pain and disappointment. Content concerns include a large amount of adult language, realistic depiction of addiction and the impact on an individual and their family, and one scene of sexuality (no nudity).
The cinematography is by Ruben Impens (The Broken Circle Breakdown). The title of the film comes from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”. David Scheff had interviewed Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1980, just months before Lennon was murdered. Music is an important aspect in the film, not only in the music that Nic and his father liked, but also in the musical score.
The film features some excellent acting performances, led by Chalamet and Carell. Tierney is strong in the difficult role of Nic’s stepmother, and Ryan is solid in a smaller role as Nic’s mother. Nic’s addict girlfriend Lauren is played by Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing, Justified), and his rehab sponsor Spencer is played by Andre Royo (Empire).
Beautiful Boy is a heart-breaking and emotional film that features some excellent acting performances. The film also includes some content concerns and is certainly not an easy film to watch, but I believe is an important film depicting the impact of addiction on an individual and their family.

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My Review of ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

All the Money in the World, rated R
****

Christopher Plummer and Michelle Williams shine in this tense film inspired by the kidnapping and demands for ransom of J. Paul Getty’s grandson. The film, which has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, is directed by 80-year old four-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down, Gladiator). It is written by David Scarpa, based on John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. The film features a strong cast, but it is who is not in the film that is every bit as interesting as who is in the film.
Four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn), stars as Gail Harris. Williams has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance. Gail had been married to John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan, Broadchurch), the son of J. Paul Getty, played by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners). Plummer has also been nominated for a Golden Globe award.
When John becomes desperate for a job, he reaches out to his father, who he really never knew, as his father focused on his business dealings, and is given a job in Rome, Italy. Unfortunately, John turns to drug and alcohol abuse and Gail decides to divorce him. In exchange for sole custody of the children, Gail agrees that she will not accept any money from the Getty family fortune.
In 1973, Gail’s son, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), who goes by Paul, is kidnapped by masked men and held for a ransom of $17 million. Gail has no money, and is forced to ask her former father-in-law to pay the ransom for his grandson. How J. Paul Getty, the richest man in the world at the time, responds to the ransom demands shows that he cares less about the torture and possible murder of his grandson than he does for his money and possessions. You’ll dislike J. Paul Getty’s character, but you’ll have to admit that Plummer delivers a strong, and perhaps an Oscar worthy performance.
Mark Wahlberg portrays Fletcher Chase, J. Paul Getty’s security advisor and ex-CIA operative. Getty instructs Chase to work with the police to find Paul so that he will not have to pay the ransom. Chase and Gail work closely together to try to get Paul home safely.
Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People) plays Oswald Hinge, J. Paul Getty’s chief attorney.  Romain Duris portrays Cinquanta, one of the kidnappers that shows kindness to Paul.
What is fascinating is that Christopher Plummer was not even supposed to be in this film. Instead, Kevin Spacey played the role of J. Paul Getty, in the film that was already finished when sexual abuse charges were first brought against him on October 29. On November 8, Scott decided to replace Spacey with 88-year-old Christopher Plummer, and he began to re-shoot key scenes on November 20, just over a month before the film was released on Christmas Day. In just nine days, twenty-two scenes were re-filmed at a cost of $10 million.
The film includes a significant amount of adult language and some graphic violence. Themes in the film include wealth, greed, drug abuse and family dysfunction.This is an extremely well-acted and directed film about the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson and the surrounding family turmoil.
J. Paul Getty’s relentless, unfulfilled desire for money and possessions reminds me of two quotes:
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.” Blaise Pascal
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13