Chew's Reviews - Ben is Back

By Gary Chew |   Opens tomorrow |  I'm a sucker for motion pictures that include an act of grace in the story. You know, ...

By Gary Chew |  

Opens tomorrow | 

I'm a sucker for motion pictures that include an act of grace in the story. You know, like a person doing something helpful for someone else, even though the second party might not be really deserving of any graceful act at all. And most of all, the graceful person not expecting anything in return. No way will I say what secondary character in BEN IS BACK does the shining favor. That's more information than needed before watching this new movie boasting superstar Julia Roberts in a principal role. Just what character shows this kindness requires you to take in the film.

That's not to say that Roberts' character, Holly, doesn't show grace as Ben's mother. She's merely swept away that her son (Lucas Hedges) has unexpectedly shown up back at home just in time for Christmas. But the problem with Ben being near the home fires again is that he hasn't spent enough time in rehab.

Ben's sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) is livid and full of gloom since her brother has such a dismal record trying to get the monkey off his addicted back. There's even more about Ben that his family has yet to learn ... misdeeds he pulled while still at home prior to rehabilitation.

Ben's step dad, Neal (Courtney B. Vance), seems determined that the young man ought high tail it back to therapy, whether it's the holiday season or not. Holly, naturally, is totally torn. She's beside herself that Ben is showing good improvement and seems less inclined to a continuous fabrication of facts.

BEN IS BACK was written by the film's director, Peter Hedges. He's also Lucas Hedges' dad. Peter lets the plot unfold smartly, so that the viewer and the scripted family, simultaneously, learn all about what had been going on before Ben went to rehab. This exposition slows the film's opening. But be advised act two and three are waiting to lay so much more on Ben's family … and you.

This tact keeps you guessing about whether Ben is less of a liar than before. And just how clean is he, really? Oh yes, you'll wonder what's up with Ben's young friends and enemies still around town ... not to mention the young girl close to him who died prior to when the story begins.

The farther you get into the movie, the deeper and darker what happened becomes. It turns out Ben's coming home presents a dangerous Christmas Eve for the troubled young man and his kin. Have you ever seen a film that might be called a Christmas Thriller?

Wisely, BEN IS BACK was shot when snow fell. It's wintry, as we remember IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but there's no angel communicating with Julia Roberts' character and Lionel Barrymore isn't around doing his “Mr. Potter” ... barking Scooge-like insults to the nice folks at The Building & Loan.

Young Lucas Hedges is getting plenty of attention. Between 2016 and 2018, he's appeared in these significant films: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Oscar-nominated for performance); THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (shared the SAG ensemble win with the rest of the cast) and recently, still in theaters, BOY ERASED, for which he's already gotten a Golden Globe nomination. The number of his film appearances and nominations received are about the same. Not bad for a kid who just turned twenty-two last December 12 th.

It appears Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet, of BEAUTIFUL BOY fame, might be skyrocketing to fame not unlike that of the legendary James Dean in the Fifties. But, we'll need to wait on that and see.

Copyright © 2018 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


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