Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Best of 2011, number 9: Beautiful Boy

Posted By on 12.06.11 at 10:30 AM

Throughout December, Ben Sachs and I will take turns writing about our ten favorite films that had their Chicago premieres this year.

A great movie can take you someplace you've never been before, even if it's someplace you don't particularly want to go. Beautiful Boy, the debut feature of writer-director Shawn Ku, recounts in minute and surely observed detail the agony of a suburban couple (Maria Bello, Michael Sheen) after their only son kills 16 people and then himself in a collegiate shooting rampage. I wrote about the movie at length in June, the week after it opened, then discovered to my dismay that I was too late: it closed after seven days on a single screen at River East 21. (Perhaps I should have known: Zero Day, another devastating look at an American shooting massacre, was similarly ill-attended when it played at Gene Siskel Film Center in 2004.)

For Bello and Sheen, both of whom give superb performances, there will be other projects; for Shawn Ku, who knows? The media MO for large-scale gun violence, be it the Virginia Tech massacre or the attack on Gabrielle Giffords, is to milk it for drama, demonize the perpetrator, find some gun control advocate to go through the motions of debating the NRA, and move on. Anyone who tries to go deeper does so at his own risk.

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