February 23, 2019

Hollywood Is Capitalizing on Parental Anxiety

“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?”

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