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“Three’s a trend. Which is why it doesn’t take Spidey senses to feel parental dread in the air — just a trip to a multiplex, where Oscar-bait dramas Beautiful Boy, Boy Erased and Ben is Back (opening Friday) can be seen.
The trio of films involve A-list actors – Steve Carell, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts – as stressed-out parents dealing with troubled sons. Pretty, pensive Timothy Chalamet chews on his lips as a Marin County junkie in the first title, while Lucas Hedges plays a gay-leaning preacher’s son grappling with his sexuality and his parents’ response to it in the second and a heroin addict in the third.
To a greater or lesser extent, all of the movies wrestle with a defining question of the college-educated classes: What do you do when your kids aren’t who you’d think they’d be? Combined, the three prestige projects channel contemporary anxieties at that crucial tipping point when a boy, beautiful or plain vanilla, hits his late teens and separation threatens white, middle-to-upper-class helicopter parents who whirl and wonder. Didn’t we buy the right Lego kits? Didn’t we pay for SAT prep? Wait: should they have lettered in soccer not basketball?”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Political leaders from all French parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined Jews and non-Jews in Paris’s Place de la Republique to condemn antisemitic acts."
"Eighty years ago tonight, thousands of Americans gathered in New York to rally behind the Nazi Party and its ideals. An Oscar-nominated short documentary retrieves footage of the event, but leaves out the context that gives it meaning."
"The PM has persuaded the religious-Zionist Jewish Home to partner with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. It makes cynical political sense for his interests, but what of Israel’s?"
"IFC’s series Documentary Now! began as an affectionately parodic tribute to the classics of nonfiction cinema. Its first episode, “Sandy Passage,” was a note-perfect evocation of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens..."
"Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom."
"Teens in the United States are coming of age at a time when digital technology is truly ubiquitous, where smartphones are all of our “constant companions.”"
"...the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic."
"Cool in the humanities isn’t that different from cool in other areas of cultural life, like planking, hotdog-legs photography, mason jar rehabilitation, and novels whose main character is a city."
"It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids..."
"Cape Town in South Africa is a foodie destination. Some people in its renowned restaurant industry are trying to spread the food wealth citywide."
"...for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. "
"After facing persecution in the former Soviet Union and a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Marya Zilberberg decides to put her Jewishness on display."