Combustible Celluloid
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With: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, Kathryn Newton, Rachel Bay Jones, David Zaldivar, Alexandra Park, Michael Esper, Tim Guinee
Written by: Peter Hedges
Directed by: Peter Hedges
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some drug use
Running Time: 103
Date: 12/07/2018

Ben Is Back (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Love Is the Drug

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Between this and Beautiful Boy — another harrowing drama about a young person's addiction to drugs — I think I dislike Ben Is Back slightly less. Both movies are a brow-furrowing mishmash of anguish and rage, with moments of rising, bitter courage thrown in, and both movies are about the nature of the disease itself, rather than about the characters. Both movies attempt moments of quiet and calm in-between the misery, but Beautiful Boy's moments are thick with foreboding, and it's impossible to relax. But Peter Hedges, the writer and director of Ben Is Back, is more successful at these moments, perhaps because his film is set at Christmastime. There are a few minutes here and there wherein one might even forget what a miserable time one is having. Hedges's son Lucas plays, and suffers greatly, as the addict, and Julia Roberts runs on high octane as his mom, taking a noble stand in her son's life.

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