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An emotional rollercoaster
arunothia12 October 2018
Ben is Back has been directed really well. All actors have done an excellent job. I always felt that movies can't do what books do to me, but this movie proved an exception. I felt all shaky with emotion at the end of it. I really really hope that everyone suffering from addiction gets help just like Ben. Please, may everyone find real peace and happiness.
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Julia Roberts on top of her game
KarenAM8 October 2018
Ben Is Back follows a story of a young addict returning home for holidays by putting the lives of his family members and those who he had affected as an addict dramatically changes within 24 hours. A triumphal performance of Julia Roberts as the mother, who is fighting for salvation of her child, is probably one of the best of her career. Lucas Hedges, who plays Ben, also son of the director Peter Hedges, is on a phenomenal rise, appearing in not one but two Oscar-worthy performances this year, proving that Hollywood can still hold on the line with decent young actors such as Hedges as old talents slowly fade out. A passionate project that is ambitious, raw and tender, centered on the redemption addicts can get from their family.
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Julia Roberts best performance!
bratpap23 December 2018
Lucas Hedges continues to impress me with his performances (the church scene was a real heartbreaker), but Julia Roberts really blew me away as the carrying mother who will do anything to protect her son.
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Ben is Back (2018)
rockman18211 December 2018
So, Lucas Hedges is having quite a year. A bully in Mid 90s, a gay teen who must endure conversion therapy in Boy Erased. And now in Ben is Back he is a recovering addict whose opioid addiction has caused major problems between him and his family. Directed by Peter Hedges, who also happens to be Lucas' father, this is a simple but effective film that deals with a crisis that many parents have to face. This one quietly arrived in theaters but its one to watch.

The film is about Ben, who recently returns home having been sober for 77 days. His mom wants to give him the benefit of the doubt although she is weary about whether he is using or not. Ben soon realizes that his old ways catch up to him and it causes a danger to his family. Ben tries to wrong the rights and fight off the temptation of the past, and his mom (played by Julia Roberts) strives to remain at his side to make sure that she doesn't lose her son.

I like the recent waves of films that are covering drug addiction. Working in that counseling field I see it daily and see what a problem it is. You can never be clear of your demons and relapse is a normality. I think Lucas Hedges has one of his strongest performances yet, not that that's a surprise because he's good in everything. Best Julia Roberts performance in a while as well, at least for me. Its a simple plot and takes place over the course of a day or so but its a deep story that engulfs you from the opening scene.

I don't know if this is going to get award season love but I'd like for it to get nominated for its original screenplay and some acting plaudits. Its easily identifiable, and the characters are strong and driven, a testament to the actors who commit to the performances. Wouldn't have minded this thing being 10-20 minutes longer because not a minute is wasted here.

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falters after a strong start
ferguson-67 December 2018
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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Lacked any kind of punch
SarcasticBella30 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In my opinion, the trailer, once again, is the entire movie.

I found myself so bitterly angry and both Ben and Holly through the entirety of the movie. Holly, as the typical enabler, wants to blame everyone but Ben for his drug addiction.

It's the doctor's fault for prescribing him pain killers after his snowboarding accident. It's the history teacher's fault for giving him codeine and other pills. But when Maggie, Ben's childhood friend, whom he got addicted, dies, that's not Ben's fault.

In a sick and twisted quest to "save her baby boy" she puts herself and her entire family in danger. Forget her husband and three other children. Ben is all that matters.

And then, just when you're about as angry as you can be. The end.

Movies over.

Hope you weren't wanting any closure.
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Written and Directed by His Dad
dogmaticdogs25 December 2018
Lucas Hedges had a wonderful start of a career. Attractive, and born to rich, Hollywood connected parents, he was given opportunities to star in some really great films, and he did well in them. Lately, however, he seems in over his head. His acting in Ben is Back and Boy Erased was just not believable. I am concerned he is turning into the next Jaden Smith with his parents giving him more than he is ready for, and him thinking he deserves it all and more.

The writing and direction by Lucas' dad was pretty weak.

Julia Roberts married to a domineering black man, and driving her son around to drug dens? Get serious people.

Lucas willing to kill himself to rectify a drug dealer family dog-napping situation? Yes, you read that right.

Crime bosses that look like they could get beaten up by the residents of your local nursing home, who plot revenge for unpaid balances of less than $1,000 and yet are very sentimental and family oriented (refusing to except family jewelry for payment because it is just too special)?

A serial addict over-dosing on one hit?

Women walking up to Lucas and saying "you're hot!"? Knowing that this was written by his dad, that is one proud papa, not to mention slightly creepy.

Gay sex for drugs with your high-school teacher? If you want to go for shocking, you have to at least try to be original.

It goes on and on.

I was hoping for a great independent film about addiction, but this is not it. If you want to see that, watch Requiem for a Dream. It is everything this movie is not. Another option, but not as epic as Requiem, would be Beautiful Boy. I like Lucas, but Lucas Hedges v. Timothée Chalamet is no contest. It is an interesting comparison in that Lucas and his dad are trying desperately to get Lucas on the same career trajectory as Timothee (i.e., Timothee does Call me By Your Name and Lucas follows with Boy Erased, Timothee does Beautiful Boy and Lucas follows with Ben is Back). However, whereas Timothee always shocks with a mind-blowingly convincing performance, Lucas is just pretty good. Lucas really needs to find himself, be a little more humble, rely less on family connections, and stop chasing others.

All that said, I enjoyed the movie. Mainly because I find it fascinating to see what happens when you write a movie for your son. Just wait for it to be released on cable and realize it is grade B at best.
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A strong start
Jack_Brock27 December 2018
This movie chronicles 24 hours in the life of a family after the oldest son comes home from rehab one Christmas eve.

The first part of the movie is good in it's illustration of the chaos and disruption drug addiction has on a family when one of their own is addicted.

The story starts out strong but delves in to unbelievable scenarios such as when the addict son goes after the drug dealer after a break in and theft of the family pet.

Good acting by both Julie Roberts and Lucas Hedges.
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In the current spate of young-men-in-addiction, this one reveals the horror at home better than any other treatment.
jdesando18 December 2018
In the many treatments of troubled young men this year (Boy Erased, Beautiful Boy, Burning, to name ones I'm aware of), Ben is Back is the most affecting. Ben (Lucas Hedges) has bolted from his rehab clinic to spend time with his loving family. Although the film devolves into a quasi-thriller, the first half or so depicts with alarming clarity what it means to have a heroin addict in the house, even for a day. It's hell.

His Mom, Holly (Julia Roberts), is the one most acutely aware about hiding anything that her son might use to get off the wagon. Holly is one of the strong women characters for this year, reminding that Roberts has the chops to pull of a heavily dramatic role, as she did in Erin Brockovich and August: Osage County. Hedges, like Roberts, gives a performance of his much shorter lifetime.

The household stress is shifted when Ben's pet dog is stolen for ransom to lure him back into the dealer game. Director Peter Hedges (father of Lucas) has mom and son searching for the dog but also for a connection that can erase Ben's addiction. Finding the dog is the action to make the film come alive and to show the audience the scary world of drug dealers.

By moving the action to the search outside the home, Hedges has lost the demanding drama of family adjustment including the teen sister, Ivy (Kathryn Newton), the two younger siblings, and the tough-love Dad, Neal (Courtney B. Vance). The world of dealers we have seen before, but such a slice of upper-middle class turmoil has been too infrequently portrayed. Even Beautiful Boy didn't involve the audience as much as Ben is Back does.

By adding the dealer turn of the screw, Hedges has revealed the convoluted and pain-giving world of addiction, now planted firmly in homelife, where even the streets must compete for tragedy and despair. Although Ben is Back has formulaic elements and an unfortunate clustering with other young-men lost films this year, it stands alone in revealing the horror addiction unleashes at home
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An engaging film.
Anurag-Shetty18 December 2018
Ben Is Back tells the story of Ben Burns(Lucas Hedges). On Christmas Eve, Ben who is recovering from drug addiction, returns home. His visit is very sudden & his family is caught off-guard.

Ben Is Back is an excellent movie. Writer-director Peter Hedges has given us an emotional, suspenseful & original story, which is very rare these days. The highlight of the film is the family dynamic, which has been portrayed beautifully. Julia Roberts is spectacular as Holly Burns. Lucas Hedges is outstanding as Ben Burns. Courtney B. Vance is great as Neal Beeby. Kathryn Newton is brilliant as Ivy Burns. Rachel Bay Jones, David Zaldivar & Michael Esper are superb as Beth Conyers, Spencer 'Spider' Webbs & Clayton, respectively. Mia Fowler & Jakari Fraser are adorable as Lacey Burns-Beeby & Liam Burns-Beeby, respectively. The supporting cast is impressive. Ben Is Back is a must watch. Go for it.
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Julia deserved a better sparring partner
jjdausey13 December 2018
Lucas Hedges was good but just didn't dazzle me in any way. Julia gives so much and his subtlety - or blandness - left me wanting more. Would have loved to have seen someone new with more edge essay the role.
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No scene was very memorable.
ilovefoodcoma31 December 2018
The Story: I was waiting for the "highlight" of this movie the whole time.... nothing! Nothing extremely scary or sad or shocking, just very flat. Didn't really get my full attention. At the end of the movie, my reaction was "that is it?"

The Directing: Julia Roberts did a wonderful job portraying being a mom who loves so much about her children. She put in so much emotion. Unfortunately, the script wasn't that excellent. No scene was very memorable.
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"Ben Is Back" vs. "Beautiful Boy": and the winner is...
paul-allaer22 December 2018
"Ben Is Back" (2018 release; 103 min.) brings the story of Ben and his family. As the movie opens, it is Christmas Eve and Holly is watching her kids at their church choir practice. Upon returning home, Holly is stunned to see her son Ben waiting for them. It turns out Ben has been in rehab, but left the rehab place so as to spend Christmas with his family. Holly's teenage daughter (and Ben's sister) Ivy thinks this is a huge mistake. "This time it will be different', Holly tells her. When Holly's husband (and Ben's stepdad) Neal comes home, he insists that Ben must return to his rehab. After arguing, Holly and Neal compromise: Ben can stay for 24 hrs. but Holly will be with him every waking second... At this point we are less than 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-director Peter Hedges ("The Odd Life of Timothy Green"). Here he delves into a topic that is getting much attention these days: a parent dealing with their son's addiction. The entire movie plays out over that 24 hrs. period that Ben shows up out of the blue. The big news is of course that Hedges cast his (Oscar-nominated) son Lucas Hedges as the addict. This is the 3rd movie in a span of 2 months I've seen starring Lucas Hedges: "Mid90s", "Boy Erased" and now this. He truly is one of the up-and-coming talents in Hollywood. But even better is Julia Roberts as his mom Holly. She perfectly conveys the sense of terror and desperation as she tries to keep control of the situation. "We can't save them, but you'll hate yourself if you don't try", comments a woman who lost her daughter to addiction. Which leads me to that other recent movie about the very same topic, albeit brought in a dramatically different way: "Beautiful Boy", starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. When comparing these two films, the shortfalls of "Ben Is Back" become evident very quickly, in particular in the movie's last 45 min. when there are questionable plot holes the size of Manhattan for no apparent reason. In the end, "Ben Is Back" still is worth checking out for the strong performances of Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges. Kathryn Newton (as Ben's sister Ivy) also does quite well. But let's be clear: "Beautiful Boy" is the better movie.

"Ben Is Back" premiered at this year's Toronto International Film Festival to good acclaim. It finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (6 people, including myself). I honestly can't see this playing in theaters very long. For that the movie is too downbeat, even more so considering that we are in the Christmas-New Year's holidays. Maybe this will find a wider audience once it expands onto other platforms (and away from the year-end holidays). Either way, I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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Flawed but generally fine
Alexander_Blanchett16 January 2019
Its a solid film and not bad at all however it missed the opportunity to be really great as well. The problem is the story itself is not new... its the story about a lion-mother who protects her son who is a drug addict. The films problematic moments are when there are a few decisions when you really question the peoples morals... and I am not talking about the trouble son-character but those who should think more clearly. Many decisions are questionable and not always rational. Julia Roberts gives mostly a really great and raw performance. Especially in the last third of the film. She really stands out then and has some of her best scenes of her career. There are little moments when she overacts a bit, especially in the mid section but her final third was amazing. Lucas Hedges was fine. Not a great performance, often a bit monotone but he did have some wonderful moments so in the end it was a fine performance. I really liked Courtney B. Vance. The story structure was a bit weird at times and definitely the screenplay deserved some more work. But its a mixed bag.. some scenes are totally unbelievable while other scenes or dialogue really are great and work.
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The Devastating Effects of Drug Abuse Epitomized in Two Hours
andrewestrella16 January 2019
I spent a long time trying to find a theater that would play this film, and I am so glad I travelled miles just to be able to see this.

Now, when I first saw this trailer a month ago, it was literally a fifteen second trailer of Ben's mother running into the arms of Ben, and then the trailer ended. I was kind of confused, and as the rest of the audience laughed, I couldn't help but give in to it, because the trailer was just kind of bad. I kept hearing about the film, and I finally found out the film was about drug abuse. As I kept scrolling through Letterboxd and IMDB, I found fairly average reviews. Still, I decided to take a chance and go see this film, because I love Lucas Hedges to death.

And I must say, for anyone who thinks this film is average or even worse, trash, I think you are incredibly wrong. Ben is Back is an incredible showcasing the struggles of drug abuse, even with long-term rehabilitation and therapy. This film reminded me of a dramatized version of the television show Intervention, which I loved as well. Now, along with showing Ben's temptation to going back into his drug habits, the film also showcases his relationship with his mother, played by Julia Roberts, who delivers an incredibly heartbreaking performance.

Now, let's talk about acting. I have followed Lucas Hedges for a number of films. From Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird, Mid-90s, Boy Erased, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, I think Hedges has delivered his best performance in this film. It may not be the best performance in 2018, but I think it is the most human portrayal of a recovering addict, and Hedges completely nails it. Julia Roberts portrays Ben's mother, and she represents a loving, yet strong-willed and persistent mother who will do everything in her power to ensure her son does not get in the same habits again. Roberts is incredibly brilliant in her performance, and it reminds me of somebody in my family who has to deal with a recovering drug addict. Although I have never partook in drugs or been exposed to it, Ben is Back transcribed me into this horrific world of drug abuse, and I feel for all of these characters, from the son who just wants to stop making mistakes and the mother who just wants to see her son live another day.

The plot of this film is fairly simple at first glance, but as the film progresses, there are tons of layers that will uncover over time. The story is basically about Ben, after spending a couple of months in rehabilitation, deciding to fulfill his mother's wishes of coming home for Christmas Day. It comes as a big surprise to the family. However, his one day back home leads to an incredible amount of trauma, in regards to family dynamics, old drug abuse habits, old friendships, and reliving horrific memories. It was so traumatizing to watch all of this unfold, but I think it was all entirely realistic.

All in all, Ben is Back floored me and I ultimately think it is a masterpiece in cinema, as it totally unveils the harsh reality of drug abuse, and the struggle that many recovering addicts face today. This film broke me, and I left the theater sobbing uncontrollably. This is what cinema is all about, people. This is hands down, my favorite film of 2018.

Cheers to all of those who struggle with the aftermaths of drug abuse, or any other form of trauma.

PS: For all you ignorant and insensitive filmgoers who were laughing obnoxiously at every scene in this film, I sincerely regret your existence. You are the epitome of all of that is worthless in this already cruel world.
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Julia Roberts lifts this movie up
rightisright14 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Julia Roberts justs gets prettier and more watchable as she gracefully ages. Here she plays the mother of a drug addict. Her characters commitment to her son comes at the expense of the rest of her family. There are some powerful moments until later in the movie we have a glorified chase scene that never seems to end. Courtney B. Vance should be in every movie ever.o
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benyoo13 January 2019
This movie gave me the a feeling of incompletion. The acting is really great, the story off beat, but Ben´s mom is depictes almost as impeccable. So the whole plot becomes like a glimpse of an episode of something, but then it finishes. Produced for a different agenda, maybe. Amazon? Rather unsatisfying, although the opioid crisis is an important social issue. Good to be addressed, but this movie left me with the feeling of having wasted my time, unfortunately.
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Ben is back and so is Hedges
Horst_In_Translation12 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Ben Is Back" is a new American English-language movie that premiered in 2018 and took until january 2019 to make it here to Germany. It runs for over 100 minutes and was written and directed by Peter Hedges. So it is certainly no coincidence that his son Lucas plays the central male character. He is a recent Oscar nominee with an underdog shot this year too, probably rather for another film than this one here, but surprisingly not too many are talking about him despite him being among the mostg talented his age group has to offer, perhaps because most people talk about Chalamet these days who has another film in the Oscar race this year too again. Anyway, back to this one here. Hedges may be the male lead, but he does not have the most screen time. This goes easily to Julia Roberts, who really has all the material too, so it is almost a bit surprising she did not make bigger waves this awards season and another nomination seems highly unlikely for her at the Oscars, perhaps because the film is pretty simple story-wise for 100 minutes even. A drug-addicted boy comes back to his mother and her (partly new) family and the two bond again. Then the family's dog is abducted and the rest is a rescue mission that may bring everybody to their limits again. That''s the film in short. I could write a whole lot about individual scenes, but I will not do it so much now. Instead lets take a look at Roberts' character again. She has mildly funny scenes, like the toilet one very early on, but also real drama, her desperation when her son manages to trick her and get away and finally of course when she tries to revive him. By the way how did the dog really ran exactly this way? A bit unrealistic. But yeah, the dog's fate and also the son's fate at the very end make it obvious that despite all the drama, this is still a bit of a feel-good movie and they certainly weren't ready for an open, let alone unhappy ending. One thing I thought was quite a shame in my opinion is how underused a great actor like Vance was in this film. He has very little to work with, maybe a bit when they discover the burglary and well the scene when they talk about the money he gave his wife for her son's therapy is what stays in the mind the most. The only thing that stays in the mind about him. I am not saying they should have constructed a story line for this character, but yeah it should have been more than it was eventually. Overall, this is a rocksolid movie with 2 or 3 very good moments, but also with one or two lengths, even if they aren't that serious and certainly no negative deal breakers. But even if the search sequence is intense in the sense if she will find her son alive (after the question if the dog will live), it eventually just turns into a Roberts acting showpiece and lacks a bit on the story-telling site. The best example is how she does not change one word with the guy who found the dog if he saw the son or so. Just no attention shall be taken away from Roberts. And she is good I guess. There is nothing she has not done in other films and there is always a bit of an overacting danger with her, but the character somewhat justifies it here. By the way liked Newton too on a completely unrelated side-note and would have been fine with her having more screen time as I would have been with Vance. So as a whole, this film deserves to be seen, especially if you are a bigger Julia Roberts fan than myself. It is not best of the year material or anything in any department, but worth the 100 minutes. I give it a thumbs-up.
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Amazing performances in an emotional family drama
josephlee93611 January 2019
The story in this film of a family struggling against the eldest son's drug addiction is brought to life with amazing performances, led of course by Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) playing the mother who will do anything to help her son Ben, played by Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird). There is also a strong performance from Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies) who gives an angelic rendition of "O Holy Night." Each family member deals with Ben's return differently, but you can feel the love each of them has for Ben as they struggle to welcome him back over Christmas. I get pretty emotional in almost any film, but I felt this one throughout. Loved the movie.
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Disappointingly ineffective
DJWinston17 December 2018
Sadly, this film, with a story that should tear us to shreds and leave us scattered all over the room, failed to convince me on any level. Whether the screenplay, direction, editing, or acting, I just never believed. Julia Roberts tries her darndest but can't overcome the weak writing; it's the first time I've ever found the amazing Ms. Roberts to be ineffective. Lucas Hedges, thus far terrific in other roles, is too obviously "acting" here. Likewise the rest of the cast fails to convince at any point.

The whole thing looks like one of those films that was shot in 10 days. And everybody looks like they're trying way too hard to make it work. For me, it just didn't.
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The horror of life
ShiiraC16 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
That young black man by the pay phone; he must be a drug dealer. He is up to no good. Why doesn't somebody call the cops? In "Pieces of April"(Peter Hedges' feature film debut), the name of the alleged drug dealer has a name; it's Bobby(Derek Luke), April's boyfriend, and he is neither selling nor buying drugs. It was her last lover, a white guy, who dealt with illegal narcotics. A business transaction, as soon as his friend calls back, will go down but it is fine menswear that Bobby wants to score. Guess who's coming to Thanksgiving dinner? April's family, that's who, and like any young man meeting the folks for the first time, Bobby wants to make a good impression. When is his friend going to call? Cops, man, they frown on loitering. Behind him sits a dumpster, a seemingly innocuous object, a regular feature of the urban landscape. In "Ben's Back", Holly(Julia Roberts), a mother in crisis, drives all night looking for her son, a recovering drug addict. The search ends at a dumpster. Ivy(Kathryn Newton), the daughter of a mother at wit's end, had traced her brother to that very spot. No pay phone; no Ben, just the lonely ring of her son's cell buried under garbage. The dumpster becomes conspicuous. The dumpster moved to suburbia. The dumpster, or rather, the filmmaker, is trying to make a point.

Ben is white. The film goes by the name of "Ben is Back", but the title's subtext and the title proper are practically interchangeable. Fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone; they're all sheep in heroin's clothing.The sheepherders are both black and white. Opioids pull the dirty and matted wool over everybody's eyes. The recovering addicts at the drug support meeting are white. The junkies at the drug den are white. Holly is white; she's Ben's mother, but the father(Courtney B. Vance) is black. When Holly's second husband makes his first appearance the audience may need a moment to reorientate themselves. He is not Ben's parole officer, or sponsor, parts that normally get assigned to an Anglo-American male, the great white hope who will save the life of a black youth in trouble. "Half Nelson", directed by Ryan Fleck, stars Ryan Gosling, who plays an inner-city middle school teacher addicted to crystal meth. He mentors an African-American student, a drug dealer, without any self-awareness of the irony that he could use some mentoring himself. If "Half Nelson" deconstructs the filmic trope of the white savior, "Ben is Back" blows it up to smithereens. The filmmaker not only defies audience expectations with colorblind casting, he also tinkers around with gender roles. Vance is passive, as Neal, he plays the part of the worried wife, pacing around the house, waiting by the phone for good or bad news. Roberts is pro-active, as Holly, she plays the part of the heroic father, willing to die trying by any means necessary to keep her son safe from harm. It's "Training Day" for mom.

In between "Pieces of April" and "Ben is Back", Hedges directed "The Odd Life of Timothy Green", which tells the story of a plant-based child, a summer annual made corporeal, who crawls out from the womb of earth, one magical rainy night. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton play a couple unable to conceive a child, so they pro-create with their imaginations. The Greens write down their invented son's characteristics on slips of paper and place them in a reliquary. The weird science works. Timothy is born. But how the filmmaker introduces the boy to his parents is of note. Timothy seems more monster than human, appearing as a shadowy apparition of indeterminate intentions, scaring Jim in the kitchen, then Cindy in the bedroom. Genre-wise, "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" starts off as a horror movie, bearing more than a passing resemblance to "Pet Semetary". The real horror, however, is just getting started. Like all summer annuals, the plant dies in autumn; Timothy dies in autumn, and there is nothing his parents can do about it. In "Ben is Back", the filmmaker cuts to the chase. There is only one kind of horror, the human spectacle of a life gone horribly wrong. This time, Holly gets lucky. "Ben is Back" ends on a happy note. Ben is indeed back. But in the sequel, he may not.
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Well done drama film of despair, danger, addiction, love, and connection.
blanbrn15 January 2019
"Ben Is Back" is one family drama film that deals with love, family, and addiction in a tense and well fought way. Set over the span of 24 hours on Christmas Eve Ben Burns(Lucas Hedges) returns home to his mother Holly(Julia Roberts) and her new family trying to find some comfort and escape from his battle with drugs, only the demons prove to be a tough fight as it's a journey and adventure that involves drug dealers and a search and seek mission for all involved. Clearly the pain and emotions are felt with all involved as it proves that family, connection, and love is the best medicine when fighting the demons of substance abuse.
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Addict Home For Christmas
stevendbeard13 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I saw "Ben is Back", starring Julia Roberts-Money Monster, Valentine's Day; Lucas Hedges-Lady Bird, Labor Day; Courtney B. Vance-The Mummy_2017, Space Cowboys and Kathryn Newton-Big Little Lies_tv, Lady Bird. This is a movie about a drug addicted boy coming home for Christmas. Lucas plays the addict, Julia and Courtney are his parents and Kathryn is his sister. It's Christmas Eve when Lucas shows up on his family's doorstep, saying that his sponsor gave him the OK. After everything Lucas has done in the past-to support his drug habit-nobody trusts him. Julia hides things-prescription drugs, jewelry,etc-and tells Lucas that she is going to be by his side during his entire visit. She even goes to the bathroom with him. She also gives him drug tests. Lucas tells her that everything is fine and he is clean and sober. But, is he? In case you don't know, drug addicts lie. It is a dilemma. I guess this would be interesting to people having their own close experiences with drug addicts but I didn't care for it that much. It's rated "R" for language and drug use and has a running time of 1 hour & 43 minutes. It's not one that I would buy on DVD. Unless you are more interested in the subject matter than I was, I would wait for it to come to cable tv.
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Intense, Emotional, Family-Driven Look At Drug Abuse
zkonedog1 January 2019
Drug abuse is a horrible thing. Not only does it wreak havoc on the individual under its power, but also family members caught in the collateral damage of conflicting emotions. Those themes are what "Ben Is Back" is all about.

For a basic plot summary, this movie sees Ben (Lucas Hedges), a drug addict, suddenly return home from his treatment facility on Christmas Eve. Mother Holly (Julia Roberts) is elated to see him, while step-father Neal (Courtney B. Vance) and sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) are much more wary of the chaos that Ben's arrival could bring. The situation complicates, of course, when Ben's old gang discovers he is back in town, creating chaos for all involved and forcing a series of difficult decisions to be made.

The hallmark of this film is the array of internal conflicts it sets up between the characters when Ben inexplicably show up. Based on certain reactions, the audience knows that Ben has a sordid previous history with these people and in this location, but none of that is explicitly discussed right away. In a stroke of genius, the filmmakers instead set up those differing reactions and then slowly reveal why they might color expectations of Ben.

What this does is create a tension-filled scenario in which motives wildly differ for everyone on the screen in terms of how they relate to Ben. The mother wants to support him at nearly all costs, the step-father advises caution at every turn, the sister is intensely distrustful of everything he does, and the step-siblings just love having their enigmatic step-brother around. The top-notch acting really helps this play out, as each actor is very believable in his/her cause. This is especially true with Hedges, who lands perfectly between "he seems sincere" and "something is brewing", and Roberts, who is always top-notch.

At the end of the day, then, I view "Ben Is Back" as a very emotional look at the devastating effect that addiction can have not only on the person struggling with it, but also the family members or friends around them. Taken as simply "the story of Ben", this would be a middling effort (if still an emotional one). Add in all the different character angles, however, and this becomes a gripping drama in which viewers will be wondering what their responses to the situations unfolding would be.
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A Tale of Two Halves
ThomasDrufke30 December 2018
In the year of Boy Erased, Beautiful Boy, and Ben is Back, there was no shortage of young adult males going through a serious emotional, physical, or mental crisis. All good films in their own right, and I think Ben is Back is more of a great representation of acting talent than it is a great film. Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges play great off each other and in a less-packed year, perhaps they could be nominated for an Academy Award. The film does unfortunately feel like a tale of two halves as the last hour turns into a crime drama while the first half is a pure emotional drama, with the latter clearly being superior. For as invested as you become into their relationship as a mother/son, I was hoping for a little bit more closure than what we received. The film just kind of ends without much resolution and it just felt strange. Alas, it's a tour de force for both of these actors, even if the end product is far less than its parts.

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