November 28, 2019

SCREEN | Shia LaBeouf Relives His Childhood – 'Honey Boy'

"You wouldn't be here if I didn't pay you."
Shia LaBeouf Noah Jupe Alma Har'el | Honey Boy

Child star turned troubled adult actor Shia LaBeouf fictionalizes his notorious life in the deeply affecting Honey Boy. Written by LaBeouf himself and directed by first-time filmmaker Alma Har'el, the rambling semi-autobiographical film is a both moving portrait of the actor's erratic childhood as a Disney star then a therapeutic exploration of his life and abusive history with his estranged father.

Starring Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges as the younger (age 12) and older (age 22) versions of LaBeouf (named Ortis Lort in the film) in 1995 and 2005, the pair make for compelling parallel depictions of a talented but very troubled artist. In one of his more daring performances, LaBeouf portrays an alternate depiction of his own actual father, Jeffrey LaBeouf (James Lort in the film), a former rodeo clown, drug attic, and convicted sex offender turned stage dad.

Both Jupe and Hedge interestingly provide contrasting but complementary portraits of a single person at different stages of their life. Jupe is sweet and affecting yet so desperate for parental guidance and unconditional love. Hedges displays an explosive charisma as an actor dealing with PTSD wrapped in his best impression of LaBeouf's explosive public persona.

Har'el impressively gets a lot of dramatic depth from her few characters and settings. The film largely takes place in only two places: the rundown motel Otis and his father James lived in as a child while he was starring on an unspecified family sitcom (standing in for Disney Channel's Even Stevens) and the generic court-ordered rehab facility adult Otis is mandated to after a series of drunk driving infractions. Aside from a few slickly choreographed montages and a showy opening on a Transformers-like set with a crashed airplane, Honey Boy sticks to the basics and the drama of its characters.

Honey Boy is a fascinating study and understated memoir on who LaBeouf is as an artist and person. His artistry and acting come from a place of pain from his childhood. It's a surprisingly cathartic exploration of his childhood and adult trauma contextualizing his father as a figure beyond his abuse. It gives an artful perspective on his demons and sordid history of public antics.


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