‘Beautiful Boy’ Has Palisades Roots


Vicki Sheff with her son Nic.

The Mom in ‘Beautiful Boy’ Is a Palisadian

A friend here in the Palisades remembers Palisadian Vicki Sheff and her son Nic, on whom the movie “Beautiful Boy” is based.

“I met Vicki in Pierre’s Bakery, next door to Mort’s, in the mid-1980’s, when her son Nic was only nine years old,” the resident wrote in an email to Circling the News. “She had worked for People Magazine for many years and reported on Hollywood goings-on. I remember that Nic always wore his San Francisco Giants baseball cap because he attended so many Giants games with his dad in the Bay Area.”

The film is based on the book, “Beautiful Boy,” published in April 2008 by Houghton Mifflin, and was No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list after Oprah plugged it as her book selection of the month.

Nic is the subject of the book, a memoir written by his dad, David Sheff. The book describes how the family dealt with Nic’s methamphetamine addiction.

Nic divided his time between Pacific Palisades with his mom, and San Francisco with his dad and stepmom and two step-siblings. In Sheff’s memoir, he noted that before Nic became addicted to crystal meth, he was funny, a varsity athlete and honor student who attended the UC Berkeley.

During his addiction to meth, Nic lied stole and lived on the streets, prostituting himself.

The family’s story has become a movie starring Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet and Maura Tierney.

A September 7 Variety film review of “Beautiful Boy” notes, “The most fascinating aspect of the movie is that Nic, a child of divorce (he lives with his dad in the Bay Area and visits his mother in L.A. over the summers), is portrayed as a reasonably stable and happy dude who responds to the rush of crystal meth because, in his words, it turns his world from black-and-white to Technicolor. Standing in front of a rehab group, he says, quite simply, that it’s the best feeling he’d ever known, so he didn’t want to stop. Sometimes even a paralyzing addiction can begin that simply.

“Yet when Nic, all strung out, is sitting with his dad in a booth at Café Beatrice, the diner they always used to go to, he lashes out at him, and it’s a devastating scene. He’s fried, and Chalamet reveals how those singed synapses have cauterized his heart. Carell plays David as a deeply loving but methodical man who starts to realize that he’s being held hostage, and there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s being taken over by the anxiety of knowing that his son could die at any moment, and Carell’s acting is urgent, imploring, silently haunted. Amy Ryan plays David’s ex-wife and Nic’s mother, Vicki, with a concerned testiness that results in frequent clashes, and Maura Tierney plays Karen, his second wife (they have two younger children), with a gravity that roots every scene she’s in.”

Pacific Palisades resident and L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote in his October 11 review, “Still only 22, Chalamet gives an extraordinary performance in this story of a young man’s descent into methamphetamine addiction and the years-long attempt of his journalist father, played by Steve Carell, to pull him out.

“Not everything else in this film, based on memoirs by the real-life father and son, David and Nic Sheff, and straightforwardly directed by Belgium’s Felix Van Groeningen, measures up to this performance, but it matters not. Chalamet is so good it’s worth seeing ‘Beautiful Boy’ for his work alone.

“The actor’s performance is especially noteworthy because it comes playing a character whose traits are some of the most familiar in contemporary cinema.”

Mom Vicki Sheff was recently interviewed by People magazine. To read the story, visit: people.com/movies/beautiful-boy-mom-vicki-sheff-son-battle-meth-addiction/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social-share-article&utm_content=20181012.



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