Ben is Back Review

This movie makes me sick.”

Ben is Back is a disgusting, overstuffed, self-indulgent, self-important mess that exists on its soap box for the suburban mothers who find it too hard too difficult to get off to 50 Shades of Grey and need to graduate to something more realistic. And that’s just in the first 20 minutes. 

I have so many problems with Ben is Back that I don’t think 500 words could do it justice, so we’ll have to just pretend that every single word I’m typing is worth five; and even then the hate that I am prepared to throw the way of this sorry excuse for a movie isn’t enough.

Ben is Back is a story about Ben, a drug-addicted teenage boy who returns home for Christmas at the joyous surprise of his mother and the horror of literally everyone else in his family. What happens next is kind of a blur. Funny enough I assume watching Ben is Back is close to actually being an addict. Stuff just kind of happens, and you don’t know why it’s happening but you are powerless to stop it. 

Julia Roberts plays Ben’s mom, a Liam Neeson-esque portrait of what every mother in the world dreams of becoming. I’m not saying that any mother would want their kid to become hopelessly addicted to drugs, but I guarantee you that every one of them have thought about that possibility. And in that thought they exists exactly like Julia Roberts did in Ben is Back.

I’m not completely against everything in Ben is Back. I thought that the movie did an alright job of conveying the helplessness of addiction, as well as how exponential the growth of drug use can be. The problems I had with the movie really start and end with Julia Roberts. The depiction of the family dynamic when a child is addicted to drugs was fine, but Julia Roberts ad-libbing her bullshit “I say what’s on my mind” lines killed any semblance of respect I could have had for it.

Seriously, nothing is off limits for her. I’m not sure if it was how her character was written or Roberts’ own ‘flourish’, but it was fucking awful. Just off the top of my head let’s try and recount some of the things this loving mother did throughout Ben is Back. Endanger her family by championing for her drug addicted son; talk shit about every other member of her family to her drug-addicted son to make him feel better about himself; watch her drug-addicted son pee; rationalize the death of a girl that was entirely the fault of her drug-addicted son and make him see her side of things wherein he is innocent. The list goes on but I’m too nauseous to continue.

I have no idea if the writer of this film, Peter Hedges, is this out of touch or if Ben is Back is actually a brilliant social commentary. If it’s the latter then I have to say that Ben is Back might be the most intelligent thing ever written. But it wasn’t that, was it Peter? You wanted to make a movie and appeal to every single fantasy every middle-class mother has in her head, but you couldn’t do the whips and chains thing because that was already taken. Am I close? So instead you decided to prey on their fears, creating a scenario where they could be like the action stars that their darling little boy watched at the movies but they never understood. A scenario where just them being around would solve every problem that ever came to pass. It’s disgusting.

This movie makes me sick.

I give Ben is Back a D

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