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Ben Is Back (2018)

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A drug addicted teenage boy shows up unexpectedly at his family's home on Christmas Eve.

Director:

Peter Hedges

Writer:

Peter Hedges
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Popularity
198 ( 54)
1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Julia Roberts ... Holly Burns
Lucas Hedges ... Ben Burns
Courtney B. Vance ... Neal Beeby
Kathryn Newton ... Ivy Burns
Rachel Bay Jones ... Beth Conyers
David Zaldivar ... Spencer 'Spider' Webbs
Alexandra Park ... Cara K.
Michael Esper ... Clayton
Tim Guinee ... Phil
Myra Lucretia Taylor Myra Lucretia Taylor ... Sally
Kristin Griffith ... Mrs. Crane
Jack Davidson ... Dr. Crane
Mia Fowler ... Lacey Burns-Beeby
Jakari Fraser ... Liam Burns-Beeby
Cameron Roberts ... James Lamson
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Storyline

Follows the charming yet troubled Ben Burns (Hedges), who returns home to his unsuspecting family one fateful Christmas Eve. Ben's wary mother Holly Burns (Roberts) welcomes her beloved son's return, but soon learns he is still very much in harm's way. During the 24 hours that may change their lives forever, Holly must do everything in her power to avoid the family's downfall.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout and some drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official Site | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 December 2018 (Spain) See more »

Also Known As:

Ben Is Back See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$13,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$80,733, 9 December 2018, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,703,184, 21 February 2019
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The filmmaker called on stage designer Ford Wheeler to develop sets ranging from the Burns family's suburban lodge to a dealer den located in a warehouse.-- Ford Wheeler, known for his work on the series THE AFFAIR and the movie RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, takes pleasure in accentuating the contrast between Ben's healthy family background and the much less protected environment where most of the film takes place in the third part of the film. See more »

Quotes

Neal Beeby: If you were black, you would be in jail right now.
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Soundtracks

My World Premiere
Written by Charles Edward Hicks Jr. & Peanut Butter Wolf (as Chris Manak)
Performed by Charles Edward Hicks Jr. (as Charizma) & Peanut Butter Wolf
Courtesy of Stones Throw Records
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User Reviews

 
falters after a strong start
7 December 2018 | by ferguson-6See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. So many families have been thrown into turmoil due to a loved one's drug addiction. Count writer/director Peter Hedges among those, so know this is more than just another film for him ... it's personal. Mr. Hedges previous work includes the underrated PIECES OF APRIL (2003) and DAN IN REAL LIFE (2007), as well as an Oscar nomination for his ABOUT A BOY (2002) screenplay. This time out, he cast his own son Lucas in the titular role of Ben. It was a wise choice.

When your son is checked into drug rehab, and you pull up to your house on Christmas Eve and see him pacing in the front yard, should your first reaction be total joy or immense trepidation? Are you thrilled to see him or worried for your other 3 kids - each who is in the car with you? Such is the moment for Holly Burns (played by Julia Roberts). With excitement from her two youngest, and pleas of "no" from her teenage daughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton), Holly bolts from the car and embraces Ben (Lucas Hedges), her eldest and most self-destructive child.

What follows is the ultimate example of inner-conflict for both mother and son. Holly is simultaneously happy to see her son and apprehensive for his well-being and that of her family. Ben is putting up an "all is well" front, while carrying the guilt of lying through his teeth. This initial sequence is by far the most powerful segment of the movie, and adding punch to these scenes are Ms. Newton and Courtney B Vance as Holly's husband and Ben's stepfather. Lucas Hedges and Kathryn Newton are immensely talented and two of the fastest rising young stars. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, and she is recognizable from her work on "Big Little Lies".

After such a strong beginning, the story falters quickly as it spreads outside of the family home. At the local shopping mall, mother Holly spews vicious venom at the doctor who first prescribed the pain killer for Ben's sports injury. She blames the now dementia-riddled doctor for ruining her son's life - it's an all too obvious and overblown moment of a parent needing to place the blame elsewhere. Soon after, we truly fly off the rails as mother and son treat us to a tour of the cities drug-related highlights. When the family dog goes missing, most people post on Facebook for help. Not this family. They hop into the car and revisit all the drug havens and dealers from Ben's past. Of course, we do get the obligatory drug recovery meeting where Ben's soliloquy praises his mother (she's in attendance) and shows remorse for his many sins.

Every parent will understand the desperate feeling of mother Holly here or father David (Steve Carell) in BEAUTIFUL BOY, a similar-themed movie released earlier this year. We are also familiar with the deceptive and often dangerous actions of addicts, even those who were raised in our home. So while we are flexible in our judgement of Holly, Ms. Roberts' performance is just too showy and over-the-top here, though she'll likely be lauded for a dramatic role with only minimal dependence on her usual acting quirks. The first third of the movie is outstanding, however the rest comes across as an attempt to create intense drama when there's already plenty.


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