‘Beautiful Boy,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Green Book’

Ahead of this evening’s SAG Awards, which will be broadcast on TNT and TBS starting at 5 p.m., we’re continuing in out recap of some of our favorites that we’ve reviewed throughout the year.

“Beautiful Boy” is a powerful look at addiction, “Bohemian Rhapsody” shares the story of the rock band Queen and  “Green Book” is a look at America’s South during the Jim Crow era.

“Beautiful Boy” (screening on Prime Video & in a few theaters) (SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Timothee Chalamet)

There is absolutely nothing that compares to being a parent.

Nothing compares to the weight of never-a-break responsibility felt in keeping a helpless newborn alive and properly nourished. And later, teaching the right life lessons so that it’s not your kid who bullies others in school, or steals, or damages the property of others. Someone’s kid is going to do those things, and most of us try our darndest to prevent it from being our kid. The reality is, that even the most attentive and best-intentioned parents can sometimes fall victim to a force beyond their control.

Such is the situation in writer-director Felix Van Groeningen’s film based on the two memoirs penned by father and son David and Nic Sheff.

What follows is the harsh reality of drug addiction: rehab, relapse, repeat. Much of the story is dedicated to David’s struggle and devotion to helping his son Nic in any way possible. He’s a helpless father who refuses to give up on his son, despite the constant desperation and frustration. Every glimmer of hope is soon crushed by yet another lie and more drugs. The film is such a downer that it makes “Leaving Las Vegas” look like an old Disney classic.

Supporting work comes courtesy of four talented actresses: Amy Ryan (as Nic’s mother and David’s ex-wife), Maura Tierney (as David’s current wife), Kaitlyn Dever (Nic’s girlfriend), and LisaGay Hamilton (involved in rehab). The reason this film works is the devastating work of two fine actors, Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet. We never doubt dad’s commitment, just as we never doubt son’s helplessness in getting clean.

The soundtrack acts as a boost to the dialogue with such songs (perhaps a bit too convenient and obvious) as John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” and Perry Como’s “Sunrise, Sunset.” The downward spiral of drug addiction feeds on the misery, and we certainly get that.  The inherent lesson here is that we can’t always save people from themselves. Knowing what to do isn’t always possible, and sometimes there is simply no right answer — even with “everything.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” (Released) (SAG Nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Rami Malek; Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture)

Cinema has many bio pics about people from all walks of life; famous, infamous and some even legendary. Their subjects pull us into the theater to learn more about them and we hope that their story will be as entertaining as it is enlightening. This biography is about the band Queen and their lead singer Freddie Mercury, as legendary as they come in rock music.

The film shows us the band’s early years when guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor lost their lead singer/bassist and was approached by a young singer named Farrokh Bulsara. He took the nickname Freddie and would change his last name to Mercury. After recruiting bassist John Deacon, the foursome would call their group Queen and become one of the most innovative and creative in rock.

For fans of the band, this is a must-see, you’ll probably recognize that the film does take some liberties with Mercury and Queen’s story but it is able to keep the story moving and entertaining in a cohesive order. At the forefront is Rami Malek’s performance which is impressive. He delivers Mercury’s presence in the film’s many stage performances as well as his personal mannerisms we have seen in interviews.

What the film does deliver, and deliver well was the reception they got from the Live Aid crowd. It’s truly one of the most emotional moments of the film and easy to see why it is called one of the most important moments in music history.

The film is not perfect and it’s not the best of the year but thanks to Malek’s strong performance and its interesting story about how true genius works, this is a film well worth seeing. It’s a celebration of a great band and if you’re not a big fan of theirs you might come out of the theater as one thanks to the music and the great ending.

“Green Book” (Released) (SAG Nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Viggo Mortensen; Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Mahershala Ali)

“Green Book” (not the official book title) was a travel guide highlighting safe places for African Americans to stay, eat and visit from the 1930s through the mid-1960s. Yes, it was a real publication and yes, there was a real need for it during the Jim Crow era.

The book makes for a nice movie title, but this dramedy from director Peter Farrelly focuses more on the budding friendship of two men from vastly different worlds separated by a few city blocks. Farrelly is one-half of the infamous Farrelly Brothers who have directed some raunchy comedy hits as “There’s Something About Mary” (1998) and “Dumb and Dumber” (1994). This is quite the change of pace for him, as it is for co-stars Mahershala Ali (Oscar winner last year for “Moonlight”) and heavy drama actor Viggo Mortensen. We see a crisp blend of the era’s harsh racism and the inherent comedy of a buddy road trip featuring a working class NYC Italian-American and an upper crust, well-educated, world class African-American pianist.

Inspired by the true story of this trip and the lifelong friendship that ensued, we get to know both men as they get to know each other. Tony Lip is a streetwise man who is comfortable with his lot in life, while Dr. Shirley plays his role in society while quietly stewing internally. He flashes his toothy grin to disarm the adoring white audiences, but then sucks down his Cutty Sark in the evening, as he is good enough to perform for them, but not good enough to dine with them (or even use their restroom). There are times the racism gets violent and that’s where Tony Lip comes in.

The film is a showcase for two terrific actors, and for those that don’t know, the real Tony Lip appeared in a few projects such as “The Sopranos” and “Donnie Brasco.”  I expect to see these two actors get some love at Oscar time, and this is one of the few films that can be recommended to just about every movie lover.

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