Tag Archives: lucas hedges

BEN IS BACK (2018) – My rating: 8.5/10

Ben is Back is a drama written and directed by Peter Hedges, who is also the main character’s father. The plot follows a mother who tries to help her addict son after he unexpectedly returns home after just 77 days of rehab. Ben is Back is moving and intense and includes a message of  how powerful drugs are, even when you apply tough love.  I’m glad I got to see this riveting movie — what an appropriate, strong message it sends as a sign of the times, as well as a look into the world of drugs at a very personal level.

Driving home with her kids on Christmas Eve, Holly Burns-Beeby (Julia Roberts) is startled to see her son, Ben Burns  (Lucas Hedges) standing in the driveway. Ben has been in rehab for the past couple of months and was not supposed to be released yet. Ben explains that his sponsor said a trip home would be good for him. Leery of his story, Holly is happy to see him anyway and says he can stay for 24 hours on the condition he does not leave her sight.  Holly’s husband, Neal Beeby (Courtney B. Vance) who is not Ben’s father, is skeptical and helps to lay down the law if Ben is to stay. Neal and Holly have two young children,  Lacey Beeby (Mia Fower) and their 6-year-old son, Liam Beeby (Jakari Fraser), who have a beautiful and fun relationship with Ben. The couple also has a daughter from Holly’s previous marriage,  Ivy Burns (Kathryn Newton).

**** SPOILERS ****

During the 24 hours Holly and Ben have together, she decides to take him holiday shopping at the mall, which will also allow her to buy him clothes for church.  While there, Holly runs into Dr, Crane (Jack Davidson), Ben’s former doctor who is  now an old man riddled with dementia. When the doctor’s caregiver walks away, leaving Dr. Crane alone in Holly’s presence, she yells at him for getting her son hooked on painkillers after a snowboarding accident that took place when he was younger. Ben also makes eye contact with someone who clearly recognizes him, leaving Ben looking worried. Ben tells Holly to get him to a support group meeting immediately.

At the meeting Ben shares the story of how he almost overdosed but his mom and dog saved him. After the meeting he is approached by a young girl (Liliana Weaver). He doesn’t recognize her, but she tells him he was her dealer and asks if he wants to get high with her one last time.  Back shopping once again Holly finds drugs on Ben, which he claims the girl at the meeting gave him. Holly takes the drugs and they go home and get ready for church. At church they see a distraught woman, Beth (Rachel Bay Jones). Holly approaches her and gives her condolences for the loss of her daughter Maggie. It is implied that Maggie was a friend or girlfriend of Ben’s who also had an addiction. Maggie overdosed and died.

The family drives home from church that night to find someone had broken into their home and kidnapped the family dog, Ponce (Nigel). Realizing it had something to do with him, Ben runs off to find Ponce and bring him home. Holly follows him in her car and they end up driving around trying to find the dog together. They first visit one of Ben’s former high school teachers, whom Holly is shocked to learn provided her son with drugs in exchange for sexual favors. Next they go to Maggie’s father’s (Jeff Auer) apartment but seeing him asleep with no dog in sight, they retreated to their car.  Maggie’s father awakens and angrily smashes Holly’s car window while screaming for Ben to leave.  They ended up eating at a diner and Ben tells Holly he got Maggie hooked on drugs and is responsible for her death. He says that he lied by convincing Maggie that drugs were the best thing ever.

There is a lot more story to tell.  Ben is Back is a well put together movie that shows an addict’s path as he tries to lick the habit while still living in the environment where he started and continued using drugs.  Julia Roberts was brilliant as the mother of an adult drug addict who also had to shelter and care for her other children.  Small incidences built up into big problems for Lucas Hedges who played Ben and also gave a brilliant performance.  I was unable to predict this movie, which is a delightful change from the same kind of movie plots I’m use to.  The family seemed real and the problems were also real.  Given this important message,  it seems like Ben is Back would have been a lot more popular than it was.  I think it flew way under the radar.  If you are dealing with a similar situation, this is the movie to see, as it suggest ways of dealing with your addicted love one, which may or may not help.  It’s almost impossible to outwit a drug addict who is well into their journey.  I highly suggest Ben is Back, especially if you are unfortunate enough to be dealing with a drug addicted person — the film received generally favorable reviews from critics, who praised the performances of Hedges and Roberts.  Ben is Back can now be seen on DVD and Blu-Ray — Check It Out!


LADY BIRD (2017) – My rating: 6.5/10

Lady Bird is a comedy drama written and directed by Greta Gerwig.   Just by the title alone, I thought this was a movie about the wife of LBJ, whose name was Claudia Alta Johnson but was affectionately nicknamed Lady Bird by her nursemaid because she thought Claudia was as “purty as a ladybird”.  To my surprise, Lady Bird is as far from a story about a president or his wife as a story can get.  Instead it is a story about a typical high-school senior and her turbulent relationship with her mother.

Lady Bird is set in Sacramento, California in 2002-03 and tells the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who is a senior student at a Catholic high school and is hoping attend an ivy league college in a city with lots of culture.  The problem is, her family is financially strapped and her mother, Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf) constantly reminds the family of their financial woes.


Trying to make the best of her situation, Lady Bird joins the school theater program along with her best friend Julie Steffano (Beanie Feldstein) and starts intimately dating Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges).  However, her relationship with Danny is short lived when she catches him making out with another boy in the bathroom stall.  Lady Bird moves on at her mother’s request, taking a job at the coffee shop where she meets her next boyfriend, a musician named Kyle (Kyle Scheible). Lady Bird gives Danny’s grandmother’s home as her address to appear wealthy and drops out of the theater program. At the coffee shop, she consoles Danny after he expresses his struggle to come out.  Lady Bird discovers that her father, Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts) has lost his job and has been battling depression for most of his life. Despite all, she begins applying to east-coast colleges and is placed on NY colleges wait lists.  At this point, Lady Bird picks up with some good points and some interesting resolutions that made the movie worth while to those who relate to this type of saga.

Personally, I found Lady Bird slow and somewhat boring.  The answers to their problems were obvious to me so I didn’t really get much from the movie and I definitely didn’t think it was Oscar worthy.  The acting was brilliant and the story was not alien.  I’m sure many would be able to relate to the dysfunction that surrounded this family.  There’s much more to be heard and seen but I didn’t want to spoil it — Check it out, there may be something in it for you!

[Lady Bird is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.]



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a crime film written, produced, and directed by Martin McDonagh. Simply put, “3 Billboards” is about a mother who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder.  It sort of reminds me of the TV hit, “Wisdom of the Crowd”.  Instead of using computer technology it’s local, instead of involving the world, it only involves those who see the billboards and instead of having information at your fingertips, you have to make phone calls or rely on logic and whatever detective skills you may have achieved over time.

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is grieving the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, Angela seven months earlier. Angry over the lack of progress in the investigation, she rents three abandoned billboards near her home, which in sequence reads “RAPED WHILE DYING“, “AND STILL NO ARRESTS?“,  “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?” The billboards are obviously upsetting to the townspeople, including Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and racist officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell). The open knowledge that Willoughby is terminally ill is adding to the towns disapproval of the billboards. Mildred and her depressed son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) are harassed and threatened, but stay firm.

Willoughby is sympathetic to Mildred’s frustration but finds the billboards an unfair attack on his character. Angered by Mildred’s lack of respect for his authority, Jason threatens Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones), who rented her the billboards, and arrests her friend and coworker, Denise (Amanda Warren) on trivial marijuana-possession charges. Mildred is also visited by her abusive ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes), who blames her for their daughter’s death. Mildred is also confronted by the local priest over the town’s disapproval of the billboards, this was one of the great highlights of the movie.  Mildred worked her smart retorts against the priest’s words of reprimand, which had audiences cheering at best. The list of disapproving “billboards against Willoughby” supporters continued when Mildred pays a visit to Geoffrey (Jerry Winsett), the local dentist, which resulted in Willoughby bringing her in for questioning because of injuries Geoffrey obtained when he approaches her with a drill while voicing the town’s disapproval of the billboards.  During the interview, Willoughby coughs up blood and is taken away by ambulance.  Later, Mildred manages to set the police station on fire using Molotov cocktails but is not charged because the town dwarf, James, (Peter Dinkladge) who happens to be smitten with Mildred and provides her with an alibi.  In the meanwhile, Jason assaults Red and his assistant, which is witnessed by Willoughby’s replacement, Abercrombie, (Clarke Peters) who fires him.

At this point, 3 Billboards is pretty intriguing and has just about everyone’s attention.  I highly recommend this movie because it’s different and quite entertaining.   I won’t say you’ll be happy with the ending but you will not forget the movie.  Check it out!  I think it’s awesome!

[Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated for Best Picture, 2Best Actor awards, Best Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Original Screenplay]


MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016) – My rating: 8/10

manchesterbytheseaManchester by the Sea is an intense movie but not for some time. You will sit though some pretty boring dialogue before you get to the real gist of what’s going on. I kept wondering, why all the rave reviews? Eventually, there came a time in the story when the events changed and as a result, everything else was effected, including my thoughts about how mundane I thought Manchester by the Sea was.  It turned out to be a monster of a movie with brilliant acting, just don’t expect more than a good, sad story.

From the onset of Manchester by the Sea, you see Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), who seems to have an extremely lax attitude, working as a super or janitor with no satisfaction as he idly moves from task to task.  He seems robotic, unambitious, uncaring and unmotivated as if life has little meaning.  Suddenly, he gets a phone call that requires him to go back to his original home in  Manchester where his brother, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler) has just passed away, unexpectedly.  Once there, we get the true story of Lee’s current situation.  His late brother has a 16 year old son, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges)  who is still in high school and is now in need of a guardian.  Lee struggles with having to take on the responsibility of guardianship.  The reasons for Lee’s behavior and lackluster existence is the heart of the story, Manchester by the Sea. We find that Lee had real roots in Manchester that he could never go back to.  In order not to spoil the surprises, twist and turns in this story, I will say no more.

I find Manchester by the Sea to be a very sad story but one that is profound, touching and heartfelt.  It is definitely worth seeing.  Casey Affleck was brilliant as Lee Chandler.  Michelle Williams also delivers a fantastic performance as Randi Chandler.  Check it out!

[Manchester by the Sea is nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor,  Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Writing: Original Screenplay]