Ben Is Back (2018)

They played the trailer to Ben Is Back all the time here. It was on TV and in cinemas before any movie started and yet when the release date came, screenings of it were nowhere to be found and so I had to wait for the home release to have a chance to watch it. 

The story follows Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges), a young drug addict who suddenly returns home from his treatment facility on Christmas Eve. While Ben's step-father, Neal (Courtney B. Vance), and his sister, Ivy (Kathryn Newton), start worrying about the chaos that Ben's arrival will eventually bring, his mother, Holly (Julia Roberts), is filled with joy. Things complicate real quick when Ben's old gang discovers he's back in town.

Like with most movies I see nowadays —I guess I have to pick my movies more carefully—, the biggest issue with Ben Is Back is the story which doesn't really bring anything new to the drug addiction/substance abuse genre. A story that starts out quite strongly but unfortunately, as it develops, turns into a dragged sequence of ridiculous scenarios, and plot holes the side of a lunar crater. And quite frankly, it's all over the place —at first, it's a story about drug addiction, then it's your average crime drama, and then it goes back at being about drugs. Overall, the story is just not compelling, and it's definitely not the reason you keep watching the film until the end.

The characters aren't particularly striking either as Ben is the typical drug addict and Holly is the typical lion-like mother who tries to protect her son at all costs. Furthermore, while Peter Hedges tries to turn the film into some sort of thriller, the focus on the dynamics between the character is completely lost.

The performances, on the other hand, are incredibly compelling, arguably too good for a mediocre film like Ben Is Back. Lucas Hedges gives an intense, astonishing, believable performance as Ben; Julia Roberts is a force to be reckoned with her sensitive, heartbreaking performance filled with the anguish, pain and anger of having a drug-addicted son. It's them that gives the mother-and-son relationship some dimension and tension.

LD Entertainment, Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate
Ultimately, Ben Is Back feels like a wasted opportunity. The film is unfocused —or focused on the wrong things if you prefer—, the relationship between Ben and his mother lacks complexity —I was never really invested in it and if it wasn't for Hedges and Roberts, I wouldn't have given a damn— and the underlying theme that although an addict cannot be saved, his/her family and loved ones will do everything in their power to help him/her, to get him/her out of the hole, feels somewhat forced.

6 comments :

  1. I didn't bother with this because I don't like Julia Roberts and I had already seen Beautiful Boy, but I'm not surprised Hedges is great. He's reliable. I'd maybe watch this if it came on HBO or Netflix streaming.

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    1. Beautiful Boy is one of the reasons I wanted to see this. I hated that movie so much I wanted this to be good, but nope. Just another bad movie. This one at least has great acting.

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  2. Great review. I haven't seen it yet, but I want to. I love Lucas Hedge and he deserves more attention, he is a great actor

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  3. Isn't it annoying when you see so many adverts for a movie and then it never even plays in your local cinemas?! I don't think Ben is Back was showed near me so I missed it, but I can't say it's one I'm excited about seeing to be honest. Great review!

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    1. It's the worst thing ever! I'm okay with them not showing indies —it's a small city and people are dumb and want to see only dumb movies— but it annoys me so much when they advertise a movie so much and then it's nowhere to be seen.

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