Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet Go Viral

On June 27, Amazon Studios posted online the official two-minute trailer for an upcoming feature, Beautiful Boy. The film is based on bestselling father-and-son memoirs by David and Nic Sheff. Both deal from their own perspectives with Nic’s descent into and recuperation from methamphetamine addiction. It’s commonplace these days for studios to hype upcoming films via Internet postings. But until now I hadn’t paid attention to the passion aroused by trailers like this one. As of 1 p.m. PDT on July 3, it had amassed 2,879,779 views. Yes, two of them were mine.

The film version of Beautiful Boy stars Steve Carell as the father and Timothée Chalamet as his troubled son. The trailer, which also features Amy Ryan and Maura Tierney, is full of emotional moments: son Nic in a drug-fueled rant; father David desperately trying to make contact; a flashback to a happier past; lots of anger and lots of tears. It has inspired, as I write this, 2,077 comments, most of them notable for their intensity. There are lots of predictions of Oscar love, as well as a few cynics dismissing the film as “Oscar bait.”

What interests me most is how personal most of the comments are. A few take up the subject of drug addiction, mentioning its impact on their own lives. Some mention having read the Sheff books, and note that they sense from the trailer a satisfactory translation from page to screen. But most of the respondents, by far, seem determined to underscore their own deep-seated connection with the actors.

Timothée Chalamet, of course, is best known by the general public for his Oscar-nominated role as Elio in last year’s oh-so-sensitive gay coming of age story, Call Me By Your Name. In that film, Elio, a precocious teenager growing up in an Italian village, is eventually able to act upon his romantic attraction to a graduate student played by Armie Hammer. There’s no question that Chalamet—with his blue eyes and wonderfully curly black hair—deserves the “beautiful boy" label, and many of the Internet commenters seem to be responding to his otherworldly attractiveness as well as to his acting chops. For some, he’s a definite turn-on; others apparently  want to mother him. I was struck by the number of times he’s referred to in the comments as “Timmy” or “My Tim.” Someone even seems to have given him a new nickname: Sweet Tea.

Then there’s Steve Carell, who has inspired quite a different response. Clearly he has his loyal fans, but most seem to connect him solely with his long-running TV sitcom hit, The Office (2005-2013). Of course his well-meaning but inept Michael Scott on that show was a memorable comic creation, resulting in numerous awards. But Carell has long since proved himself as an actor fully capable of moving beyond broad comedy. Yes, he was hilarious in 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but his other films have showed off his range, from his uncharacteristically sad and sensitive role amid the comic chaos of Little Miss Sunshine to his Oscar nomination as a self-destructive wrestling coach in 2014’s Foxcatcher. He’s a versatile and busy actor, as well as (I gather) a good human being, and I certainly wish him well.

But the Internet folks, while proclaiming their love for Carell, seem most interested in the fact that his ex-wife in Beautiful Boy is played by Amy Ryan, who was once (as Holly Flax) a Michael Scott squeeze in The Office. So, in their minds, Michael and Holly have had a baby, and now he’s a drug addict.  And so—Internet hilarity ensues.

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