Who knew that Shia LaBeouf (CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN) was so talented? I guess one could argue that the folks at Disney did, as that’s where the actor got his break in Hollywood, appearing as Louis Stevens in their TV comedy series, EVEN STEVENS. He was 14 years old at the time, though he had been performing stand-up comedy since he was 10. In the years between then and now, the actor appeared in a number of high profile movies including the first three TRANSFORMERS films; INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE SKULL; WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS and FURY, though none of those roles ever put him in foremost people’s minds. Instead, it was his off-stage antics that did that. In the course of three years, he was arrested for disorderly conduct in public, got married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator (and divorced less than two years later), and was arrested again, this time for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and obstruction. As part of his plea deal in that second case, he was required to enter a rehab facility to get a handle on his anger issues and substance abuse. It was during that time that LaBeouf decided to write a screenplay about his relationship with his abusive father.
In HONEY BOY, LaBeouf plays James Lort, a Vietnam veteran and former rodeo clown, who is the father of Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA; LADY BIRD; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI; BEN IS BACK), a 22-year-old movie star in Hollywood. After causing a car accident and hurling verbal abuse at the police officer who was investigating the incident, Otis is arrested and, as a condition of his plea deal, he is remanded to a rehab facility. There, his counsellor, Dr. Moreno (Laura San Giacomo, SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE and TV’s JUST SHOOT ME!) diagnoses him as having PTSD and works with him to explore his past. Though initially resistant to her exposure therapy, Otis’ memories of his life with his abusive father ten years earlier when he was an up-and-coming TV star (played by Noah Jupe, SUBURBICON; A QUIET PLACE; FORD V FERRARI) bubble to the surface and help him to understand the roots of his anger.
LaBeouf knocks it out of the park with this deeply personal and cathartic story. He doesn’t hold anything back, either in his writing or in his portrayal of Otis’ flawed father. The actor has said in interviews that this was a freeing experience as he was able to exorcise his personal demons, and that is evident both in his performance in this film and in his other recent work, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON. At last, the rest of us can finally see what the execs at Disney saw all those years ago. Before the coronavirus shut down Hollywood, he was working on two new films. We’ll just have to wait a bit longer before we get to see them.
HONEY BOY is directed by Alma Har’el (BOMBAY BEACH), who is known for her documentaries and music videos. In fact, this is her first feature film. LaBeouf had sent her his rough drafts while he was in rehab and she said that she saw its potential right away. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2019 where it took home the Special Jury Prize. Both LaBeouf and Har’el were tipped for Oscar nods earlier this year but in the end neither received a nomination. Even so, the film is fabulous and well worth your time.
HONEY BOY is available now for streaming on Amazon Prime, and on DVD and Blu-Ray elsewhere. There’s no word yet on when it will be available for streaming on the other services. Definitely check it out!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, April 3rd, 8:30 am HK time!
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