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Shia LaBeouf Digs Deep To Make “Honey Boy” An Impressive And Cathartic Experience

It takes real courage to put your life, warts and all, out there on display like Shia LaBeouf is willing to do in Honey Boy. Willing to go all in, LaBeouf has penned a biographical drama that will almost certainly make you look at him in a different way. That he started writing the script while in court mandated rehab only furthers that. Reframing some of his more controversial moments within the microscope of a troubled childhood, this movie is truly touching. Not only is it one of Amazon Studios’ hopefuls for the Academy Award race, it’s on of the year’s better works overall. Opening this week, prepare to be floored by this one.

The film is a drama, based on LaBeouf’s own life/upbringing. A somewhat fictionalized account of not just his quick jump to movie stardom during childhood, as well as a look at his adult issues with the law, which landed him in rehab, this is also an examination of who his father was. Here, it’s Otis Lort (Noah Jupe at age 12, Lucas Hedges at age 22), a stand in for Shia, while James Lort (LaBeouf) looms large. An ex rodeo clown, James is on his pre-teen son’s payroll, as much an employee as a legal guardian, something that poisons their relationship. Sometimes he’s a bitter father figure, sometimes he’s a bully, and other times he’s too much of a bully, but he’s rarely the dad that Otis needs. A decade later, while recovering in rehab, an older Otis begins to unpack this all, trying to figure out who his father is, why he was the way he was, and what this means for his own self. The results are fascinating and moving in equal measure. Alma Har’el directs LaBeouf’s screenplay, with Natasha Braier handling cinematography, while Alex Somers contributes the score. Supporting players include Byron Bowers, Clifton Collins Jr., Natasha Lyonne, Maika Monroe, Laura San Giacomo, Martin Starr, FKA Twigs, and more.

Honey Boy is an introspective and piercing bit of self examination on the part of LaBeouf. The exploration of his early career, his recent troubles with the law, as well as his complicated relationship with his father, makes this a truly unique form of therapy. That he also manages to make the movie funny, sad, and even uplifting is truly an achievement. This is further proof that the man is a real talent, not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well.

If this were only a writing exercise on LaBeouf’s part, the flick would be an intriguing but too messy experience. However, his supporting turn, along with the work from Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe, not to mention the creative direction by Alma Har’el, allows this one to really soar. Har’el finds a visual language to merge with LaBeouf’s messy sense memory, creating a beautiful synergy. The script may be the foundation, but her direction is what allows it not to collapse under its own weight. The terrific acting only helps to accentuate how strong the material is. Everyone involved here is doing some terrific work, all in the service of a meaningful story.

This weekend, Shia LaBeouf is going to change the way you think about him, that’s for sure. Honey Boy represents an opportunity to change the conversation about the man, all while making a top notch film in the process. It’s a wonderful success, one that deserves to find a wide audience. Whether or not Oscar sees fit to pay attention to it, just know that this is one of 2019’s finest works and a candidate for my year end top ten list. Yes, it’s that good. Give it a shot at the end of the week and you’ll understand why…

Be sure to check out Honey Boy, in theaters starting on Friday!

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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