Directed by: Alma Har’el
Written by: Shia LaBeouf
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, FKA Twigs, Maika Monroe, Natasha Lyonne
Life as a child star in Hollywood has its major gains, but as documented through this film, they carry a burden unfit for someone so young to carry. In what should be a profession that adds fun to their lives along with a paycheck, these young stars often have to contend with parents becoming their managers and the reality of not being normal kids in any facet.
Told in two prominent times of his life, Otis (Noah Jupe & Lucas Hedges) experiences living with his former rodeo clown father (Shia LaBeouf) as he begins his prominent acting career and in the future timeline deals with the ramifications. Through the two timelines, Otis needs to confront the impact of his father and how to move past it.
Shia LaBeouf stands as one of the most interesting and controversial individuals in all of Hollywood. Starting in the industry at a young age and then jumping into large franchises like Transformers and Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Reports of his behavior made its way to the public and his persona shifted in many ways throughout the years. It got to a point where many would agree that he possesses the acting talent, but a horrid personality. Honey Boy serves as a deeply personal piece and an explanation for what he encountered as a kid. For what may appear like naval-gazing by LaBeouf results in a touching story of how a broken man ruined the life of his son.
The father role named James, played by LaBeouf, puts the actor in the place of someone who caused him harm. One of the most interesting actor-to-role combination in recent years and he knocks it out of the park. LaBeouf captures the humanity of James but also showing just how complicated his psyche became. A man who had dreams of performance as a rodeo clown but now has to rely on his son for a paycheck. It clashes the man’s pride with the insistence of survival and it would be more heartbreaking if not for the damage he inflicted upon his son. This role must have been quite painful for LaBeouf to take on and with it, he provides one of his greatest performances.
Portraying young and older Otis are Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges, who’ve had a solid couple of years. Jupe portrayed characters in A Quiet Place and Ford v Ferrari, while Hedges has cemented himself as an indy darling with roles in Lady Bird, Boy Erased, Waves, and many more. Their portrayals of the ever-complicated Otis shows the damage the industry and his father inflicted upon him. Jupe shows the evolution of trust and how it became corrupted through witnessing how his father has failed him. Hedges displays the impact and how everything led to disabilities he could not comprehend.
A very personal piece expertly crafted by director, Alma Har’el, who took the story Shia provided her and added the visual flair it needed. Her dynamism did not allow the story to remain stagnant at any point and she demonstrated the promise she has as a filmmaker. Honey Boy serves as a work of cinematic bravery for Shia LaBeouf and I can only hope it provided him the opportunity to reflect on his life and look to the future.