2018 seemed to be the year of addiction stories that have led to some stellar performances by some great actors. Having known various folk throughout the years who have been addicted to one vice or another (drugs & alcohol), I saw two pretty realistic portrayals of individuals and their families and friends dealing with the highs and lows of the life of an addict. Beautiful Boy and A Star is Born (2 of the top 20 movies I saw this year) were beautifully pained snapshots of lives filled with valleys and peaks, love, hope, despair, fleeting moments of happiness and clarity, desperation and denial. These movies made you sympathize for Timothee Chalamet’s Nic and Bradley Cooper’s Jackson and empathize with families and loved ones surrounding those two who would do anything to see them healthy and happy (Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House was another work that dealt with a family dealing with addiction rather realistically as well).
Timothee Chalamet turns in a (I would say “another” but I haven’t seen Call Me By Your Name, yet…he was good in Lady Bird though) stellar performance as Steve Carell’s drug addicted teenage son, based on the memoirs of a father and son (David and Nic Sheff). Chalamet seems to have a knack for channeling a Millenial/GenZer to a tee. The lost teenage who doesn’t quite know who he is, whose life is missing something that they can’t quite put their finger on so they use drugs and sex to fill that void and feel something.
Steve Carell gave a good performance as a father willing to do anything, including making some hard choices to help his son. But I still have a hard time not seeing Michael Scott (The Office…one of my favorite shows of all time)…I try to see past that but it’s hard (he was great, and fairly dramatic, in Crazy, Stupid, Love.–another of my favorites). And it didn’t help that Amy Ryan (a former love interest on The Office) played his ex-wife. Overall, this was a great movie that really made you feel the impact addiction can have on a family.
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Having seen all four versions of A Star is Born (1937, 1954, 1976 and 2018), Cooper’s version is now my fave (don’t get me wrong, I love Judy Garland’s version too)…this one is raw and filled with seller (unexpected to me) performances all-around that really convey the ups and downs and didn’t sugar coat this life. It was also great seeing Lady Gaga (or Stefani Germanotta) stripped down. She was superb and emotional and authentic (and the callbacks to Judy in the beginning were a cute homage). Bradley Cooper’s weathered Jackson Maine was a rollercoaster ride of sobriety and drunkenness inside a complicated man with a sad past. Cooper himself, has been open with his past struggles with addiction which I’m sure added to the authenticity of his performance and the way he directed the entire movie. And it doesn’t hurt that Sam Elliott can read the phonebook to me and I’d enjoy it!
Gotta give Bradley Cooper his props for breathing fresh life into a story that been told over and over again in his directorial debut. And to top it off, I am in love with the soundtrack! I don’t think I’ve ever liked a soundtrack more than this one…well, maybe its right up there with the O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Romeo + Juliet, The Bodyguard, Kill Bill and Black Panther soundtracks (maybe I’ll do a post about movie soundtracks one day). I love the fact that Cooper used his own vocals and had a hand in some of the writing. I had never really been a big Bradley Cooper fan, but after this move, I have a new found respect for this immensely multi-talented man (and Lady Gaga, really)! This movie made me laugh and cry and even though its a tragic love story, I could seriously watch this over and over again!
Also…Ben is Back also dealt with the heavy theme of addiction, but I’ve yet to see that one…stay tuned.