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Shia LaBeouf Exposes a Nerve with Honey Boy

For all of the post-#MeToo speak of dismantling a tradition constructed on poisonous masculinity, important change is sluggish coming. So when a reforming offender like Shia LaBeouf acknowledges the basis of his dangerous conduct, it appears like progress. However is it sufficient?

Together with his semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy, LaBeouf challenges himself to look his demons within the eye. The actor wrote and stars in Alma Ha’rel’s unflinching characteristic directorial debut primarily based on LaBeouf’s personal life. The movie opens on the peak of Otis Lort’s (Lucas Hedges) superstar downfall, segueing from the premiere of his blockbuster (a stand-in for LaBeouf’s function in Transformers) to a profanity-laced arrest for drunkenly crashing his automotive—a reference to the evening LaBeouf infamously screamed “Are you aware who the fuck I’m?!” at safety guards. From there, Otis goes to rehab, the place he confronts painful recollections of rising up along with his father James (performed bravely by LaBeouf), a registered intercourse offender and hotheaded has-been who managed his younger son’s profession and earnings throughout his rise to fame.

Hedges delivers a shifting and appropriately grating efficiency as a 22-year-old who loved years of entitlement and now faces accountability. However it’s the youthful model of Otis, performed marvelously by Noah Jupe, who humanizes the story. Via flashbacks, the movie examines Otis’s shattering childhood, formed by a bigoted, abusive father who shuttled him between a raggedy motel room and the set of his star-making TV present. LaBeouf’s portrayal of his personal father exposes a person drowning in envy and self-pity over his son’s success, leeching off Otis’s fame and cash because the boy yearns for some fatherly affection.

Honey Boy may have simply lowered James to a shallow stereotype—a poisonous dad who teaches his pre-teen offspring learn how to smoke a cigarette, disparage his mom (inexplicably solely ever represented as a voice on the phone), and pee like a person. However in LaBeouf’s fingers, the character is brutally human, anchored by the actor’s bodily and emotional journey towards unearthing the actual man behind his father.

Noah Jupe and Shia LaBeouf in Honey Boy.

Amazon Prime

Revisiting this weak interval couldn’t have been straightforward for LaBeouf, whose grownup stand-in lastly achieves the breakthrough he wants within the closing moments of the movie, as he decides definitively to make a film about his father. However is merely figuring out the reason for poisonous conduct the identical as rectifying it? Within the movie’s early moments, Missy Elliott’s “My Struggles” performs as grownup Otis enters the body, urging us to see him as a sufferer of his chaotic atmosphere. Pinpointing the basis of a difficulty is a transfer in the correct course, but it surely’s unclear whether or not Otis (and by extension, LaBeouf) left house within the therapeutic course of to find out how he’s going to be a greater man shifting ahead.

Lucas Hedges as Otis Lort in Honey Boy.

Amazon Prime

For individuals who could have forgotten, LaBeouf spent years tarnishing a promising profession and disaffecting followers with a staggering legal report, culminating in a racist rant in opposition to a police officer in 2017. He admitted to Esquire in a 2018 profile that he appears again on that individual occasion as “mortifying,” “determined,” and an instance of “white privilege.” Honey Boy appears to hope its viewers will view the movie as proof that LaBeouf is now not that particular person; the film is as a lot an opportunity for the actor to current a brand new model of himself as it’s a sobering account of the experiences that led to the place he’s right this moment. However it might have behooved LaBeouf to finish Otis’s story not simply along with his determination to confront his previous, however quite, with some sense that he is improved after present process this journey. It’s a nagging critique of an in any other case outstanding movie that displays a tremendous quantity of belief between filmmaker and star/author, however a sound one as males like LaBeouf proceed to heal, rebuild their photos, and take the required strides to reform.

Candice Frederick is a contract TV/movie critic residing in New York Metropolis.

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