Greta Gerwig’s 2017 directorial debut, Lady Bird, is a triumph in part due to its rich ensemble cast of characters. Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet (who, opposite Armie Hammer, also starred in the highly-acclaimed coming-of-age romance Call Me By Your Name last year) are Danny and Kyle, the two teens who precocious, iconoclastic Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) pursues romantically—both, in different ways, to disappointing ends that smack more than a little of betrayal: Golden boy Danny (Hedges) is gay and still in the closet, and brooding band-dude Kyle’s pretentious and, frankly, sketchy vibes belie some very real pain.
Why are we even talking about this? Well, because this week in the Trailer Park, we’re looking at two new films starring Hedges and Chalamet—both, by all accounts, gut-wrenching coming-of-age tales based on memoirs (add them to your Fandor Book Club list). Not to mention that while they depict very different struggles, both movies recall Danny and Kyle in a surprisingly synchronistic way.
Usually, we’d insert some kind of “we’re not crying, YOU’RE crying” joke here, but we’re definitely crying, so there’s no use in trying to hide it. Nicole Kidman, with her blonde shag and sequined leopard print, is giving us just the perfect whiff of Tammy Faye Bakker as a mother with the best of intentions. Baptist minister Russell Crowe’s eye twitch in response to his son’s attempt to come out? It’s so poignant it’s agonizing. Love, Simon and But I’m a Cheerleader this is not. It’s a much darker riff on the potential future of Lady Bird’s closeted Danny, but instead of quirky nuns and priests calling the shots, it’s steely Joel Edgerton (Kinky Boots, The Gift, It Comes At Night) as the leader of a gay conversion therapy program that (to the surprise of no one) appears to do more harm than good.
Edgerton, who also adapted this material for the screen, has made a name for himself in movies that derive their horror from the monstrousness of human nature. We get the sinking feeling, watching the trailer layout the beats of the plot, that every character is trying in good faith, so to speak, to do the right thing, and believes that their actions are serving the greatest good. At a moment of such LGBTQIA+ visibility, it’s important to remember that high-ranking United States politicians still advocate for—and fund—these exact kinds of controversial and harmful practices. But Boy Erased is not about the national conversation, not really; it’s about a family and the failure of unconditional love. If Lucas Hedges isn’t back with another Oscar nod next year, we’ll be nonplussed.
Hope you didn’t put away the tissues too soon! Between this and Welcome to Marwen, Steve Carell seems hellbent on drinking our tears this year. Here, he plays the father who can’t help but blame himself for his son’s consuming addiction. Chalamet is the titular addict, taking the pain of adolescent awakening—which he glamorized in Call Me By Your Name and weaponized in Lady Bird—and making it the inexorable undertow of his self-destruction.
Beautiful Boy is adapted from the memoirs of David Sheff and his son Nic, and parallels Boy Erased in one important way: It’s a story about a parent who desperately wants their kid to “get well,” but ultimately may not know how to help them. But while Boy Erased’s Jared, like Danny, plays the model son and student who chases the love and acceptance of his parents, Beautiful Boy’s Nic, like a much darker riff on Kyle, spurns the attempts at connection offered him. Just from the trailer alone, we get the feeling that time and time again, Nic puts the drugs before his family. If that doesn’t break your heart, we don’t know what would.
Again, though these are both ostensibly movies about the reverberations of trauma through a family unit, both also have meaning that radiates outward to touch raw nerves in the fabric of our identities, both personal and national. With these important and challenging roles, Hedges and Chalamet both seem poised to become clear and distinct voices of a generation and its stories.
It’s clear that both are also, on a less cosmic note, in it to win it this awards season—Chalamet will also star as an unlikely drug dealer in juggernaut media company A24’s upcoming Hot Summer Nights, and Hedges is switching it up (but also sticking with A24) to play a bullying older brother in Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s. Beautiful Boy will be in theaters beginning October 12, giving us all a few weeks to recover before Boy Erased arrives to devastate us on November 2. Plan accordingly!