The real purpose of “Beautiful Boy” becomes clear at the beginning of the end credits. Part of the film’s problem becomes clear, too.
We have just watched two gut-wrenching hours about a young man’s addiction issues. The end credits remind us of the realities of addiction and sobriety, and that support is available for those in need.
An admirable message and, with any luck, it will help someone someday. It’s the kind of thing that usually shows up at the end of a documentary, encouraging people to take action.
But it suggests we’ve been watching an issue movie, something just a little too generic to be really potent and memorable — despite the fact that it’s based on two books describing a very specific true story: “Tweak,” by Nic Sheff, and “Beautiful Boy,” by his father, David Sheff.
The two roles are played, very well, by “Call Me by Your Name” star Timothee Chalamet, as Nic, and Steve Carell as his frustrated dad (a San Francisco freelance journalist who lives an unaccountably wealthy lifestyle).
Chalamet’s instincts are far beyond his years (he’s 22), and he gives another painfully accurate performance full of surprises and unexpectedly truthful moments. The film doesn’t try to explain Nic’s addiction (his overbearing father might be part of the puzzle), but Chalamet makes you believe it, completely.
Carell has the larger part, and although he sometimes reverts to a stunned daze, the actor rises to the occasion with a believable study of someone who can’t understand how things got this way.
Lending good support — and yet surely with more to give than they’re called upon to deliver — are Maura Tierney as David’s wife and Amy Ryan (“Bridge of Spies”) as his ex.
Belgian director Felix Van Groeningan (he did the fine, thoughtful ”Broken Circle Breakdown”) lets “Beautiful Boy” roll out in an intentionally jumbled way that suits the subject. He leans way, way too heavily on a classic rock soundtrack, a jukebox approach that provides some unearned emotional shortcuts.
The songs give color to a story that is just a tad colorless — even the California locations carry a TV-series sameness. Without Chalamet’s electric performance, the movie would remain a noble idea given a standard treatment.
Back to those end credits: Do stay all the way to the end.
Halfway through, we get — no, not a teaser for the next Marvel film — but a Charles Bukowski poem read by Chalamet. It’s an interesting experience to hear a poem read aloud in a dark theater, and this one gets to the essence of its subject in a way the film never quite does.
“Beautiful Boy” (2½ stars)
Based on a true story, this tale of a young man with addiction issues (Timothee Chalamet) and his frustrated father (Steve Carell) is just a little too generic to be truly potent. But you can’t fault Carell’s fine performance, or Chalamet’s electric one.
Rating: R, for language, subject matter
Opening Friday: SIFF Cinema Eqyptian