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“Ben Is Back” – Lucas Hedges, Peter Hedges, and Julia Roberts: Hollywood Film Tribute

Today we are recognizing Ben Is Back, as well as writer/director Peter Hedges, plus co-stars Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts. Our Hollywood Film Tributes recognize films and talent for their excellence in the art of filmmaking.

One of the most powerful films of 2018, Ben Is Back is a masterclass in actors bringing out emotion in the audience. Hedges and Roberts combine for some very special work. At the same time, the elder Hedges crafts a beautiful showcase for his son. It’s one of 2018’s best and most underrated movies, that’s for sure…

A sampling from our rave review last month:

There’s a special little alchemy on display in Ben Is Back, a wonderful new film hitting theaters this week. You see, in the director’s chair is filmmaker Peter Hedges, while in one of the central two roles is his son, Lucas Hedges. Each has done strong work in the past, but here they bring out the best in each other. When I haven’t even mentioned the commanding turn by Julia Roberts, you know this is good stuff. Together, the three of them make this among 2018’s finest works. It will contend for a spot on my year end top ten list.

The movie is a family drama about a teenage drug addict home for the holidays. It’s Christmas Eve and Holly Burns (Roberts) is wrangling her two young children, while older daughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton) performs in a church choir show. When they return home, they discover Holly’s oldest and Ivy’s brother Ben (Hedges) waiting for them. Ben is supposed to be in drug rehab, but he’s home for Christmas. Holly is overjoyed, while Ivy is suspicious. Holly’s new husband Neal (Courtney B. Vance) is all but hostile, which is to be understood, as there’s unsaid tragedy in their past. Holly welcomes Ben home, but isn’t above hiding her jewelry and prescription pills. She wants to believe that he’s better, but as the day progresses, it becomes clear that as much as he may want to change, trouble is still following him. The less you know about the second half of the flick, the better. It’s best left to be discovered. The elder Hedges writes and directs, while supporting players include Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Esper, Mia Fowler, Jakari Fraser, Alexandra Park, and David Zaldivar, among others. Dickon Hinchliffe handles the music, while the cinematography is by Stuart Dryburgh.

This is a tremendous work of emotional cinema. Peter Hedges and Lucas Hedges make magic together, while Julia Roberts is as good as she’s ever been. There are two standout sequences that really showcase them. One is set at a cemetery, while the other, which is among the best scenes of the year, takes place at a mall and has Roberts absolutely crush a short speech. Admittedly, the film gets melodramatic the longer it goes on, but the emotion at the end is well earned. By the time the end credits roll, there’s a strong chance that you’ll have rolled a tear or two.

Photos Courtesy Lionsgate / LD Entertainment / Roadside Attractions

Hollywood Film Tributes recognizing films and talent for their excellence in the art of filmmaking.
Editors: Carlos de Abreu and Joey Magidson [Tomatometer-approved critic]
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CRITERIA: HOLLYWOOD FILM TRIBUTES are based on multiple elements that are taken into consideration including award events and consultations with industry insiders (agents, managers, journalists, awards strategists, filmmakers, awards voters, producers, studio execs).

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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