My Favorite Movies – Honey Boy (2019)

21 May

By Tanner Smith

Shia LaBeouf isn’t doing so hot right now…again…

Just when we thought 2019 was his comeback year, he gets himself into more trouble in 2020. It’s a shame.

The guy is talented! And he has a bunch of issues he’s still working through…even after his therapeutic exercise in screenwriting, called “Honey Boy,” which is an intriguing and disturbing look into his psyche. (LaBeouf wrote the screenplay while he was in rehab.)

“Honey Boy,” directed by Alma Har’el, is LaBeouf’s semi-autobiographical account of dealing with his mess of a father, who depended on him financially when he was a child actor. LaBeouf’s fictional counterpart is a movie star named Otis (Lucas Hedges–because if it’s not Timothee Chalamet, it’s always Lucas Hedges). He’s a big-time actor with an extreme alcohol problem. After an accident due to drunk driving, he’s sent to rehab, where his counselor (Laura San Giacomo) diagnoses him with PTSD, and she wants him to write an account of his past memories that might have triggered certain violent behaviors.

This leads to flashback sequences that make up half of the movie, as we see 12-year-old Otis, now in his child-actor days (and played by Noah Jupe), and supervised by his father…and this is where it gets real interesting, especially when you know the behind-the-scenes story of this movie. The father, James Lort, is played by Shia LaBeouf himself. He’s portrayed as someone who is charming and funny…and someone who is clearly on-edge, as he tends to have manic and aggressive tendencies. He’s four years sober but he’s wildly unpredictable. He’s annoying on set of the TV show Otis stars in and an overbearing boor at the motel he and Otis are living in for the time being. (He also used to be a rodeo clown, hence his constant pressure on Otis to be better prepared before showing up on set.)

James is basically a terrible father, and I wonder how much of a wreck Otis’ mother (played in a voice cameo by Natasha Lyonne) must be if this guy is having to look after Otis. Maybe James is more financially dependent of his own son… Damn.

“Honey Boy” is a powerful, upsetting, and moving story about show business life and how abuse to younger talent can lead to adult consequences. Push too hard and deny them a childhood, and it doesn’t usually go over well. (Btw, check out the documentary “Showbiz Kids” on HBO Max for more about that topic.) That it was written as a cathartic expression of LaBeouf battling his own demons makes it even more intriguing.

Naturally, this moving independent drama was ignored by the Oscars, so…Indie Spirits to the rescue again! It was nominated for four Film Independent Spirit Awards: Best Director, Best Cinematography (Natasha Breier), and Best Supporting Male twice (for LaBeouf and Jupe). Good call, guys.

There just aren’t as many honest and brave movies as this one lately, and I admire “Honey Boy” for telling this story the way it fit…and I still have some hope for Shia LaBeouf.

“Honey Boy” is available on Amazon Prime.

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