Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, FKA Twigs
Director: Alma Har’el
There’s something naturally cathartic about Honey Boy. To give some background on this film, Honey Boy was written by LaBeouf while he was in rehab and serves as a reflection of his life and the abuse he suffered along the way. In a sense it’s almost the perfect anti-studio movie since this was written exclusively for personal relief and not necessarily for profit. Regardless of how the movie is received or performs, I’m pleased that this experience brought LaBeouf any sort of semblance of healing as that’s for more important than movies. This level of personal detail can’t be faked and as a result, Honey Boy is one of the rawest and most emotionally moving films of the year.
The film is broken up into multiple portions of the life of Otis Lort (Hedges), an actor who has a drinking problem and a hankering to consistently make poor decisions. While he’s in rehab, Otis reflects on his time as a child actor (Jupe) and the abuse and pressure that has been placed on him by his father James (LaBeouf). I applaud LaBeouf for not only being able to deal with his trauma in a healthy way, but face it head on by playing the man who has caused him so much pain in his life. Anyone who has dealt with this level of stress knows it replays in your mind for the rest of your life, so I can imagine that’s what LaBeouf used as inspiration for his character. I know LaBeouf has become a bit of a joke when he was doing some of his more ridiculous public outbursts, but I’ve always believed he was an incredibly talented auteur and I hope this process will allow him to continue to heal and work at the craft that he does best. On the other side of things, Hedges and Jupe continuously show us how they are two of the best young actors in the industry today. Hedges is slowly but surely getting the hardware to back up his performances, but I think it’s only a matter of time before Jupe joins them at the top. This is probably the meatiest role that Jupe has ever done and he’s shown that he can absolutely handle the pressure. When he gets a little older I think he could end up starring in the next great coming-of-age movie and he’ll only start to soar from there. Placing a younger actor like Jupe in this role had to have been done with a significant level of care and empathy and I suspect that LaBeouf will remain in Jupe’s life as a mentor and a figure to help navigate this difficult career. I think all three of these actors are on the verge of very different yet very special things and only time will tell if any of them live up to the hype. Whether this is Jupe moving more into the mainstream, Hedges getting nominated and eventually winning an Academy Award, or LaBeouf moving more behind the scenes, Honey Boy realistically could be the springboard for any of them given just how intense, emotional, and honest this movie is.
Overall, Honey Boy is 33 years of terror condensed to 93 minutes and shows us that our past impacts us far more than we often let on. By getting the help that he needed, LaBeouf can curb the cycle of pain from continuing and making sure no one else is impacted by something that wasn’t his fault. Some people may view this whole project as self-indulgent and selfish, but this is far too personal to ever be one-dimensional or shallow and shows us how much talent Har’el can get out of her actors.
Overall Score: 8/10