review by Bobby Blakey
Despite his rocky journey through Hollywood I maintain that Shia LeBeouf is one of the best actors out there. He brings that passion and dedication to every role whether it’s a big popcorn flick like the Transformers franchise, a war action film like Fury or an indie film like American Honey. His latest film, Honey Boy has him not only appearing, but stepping into the writers chair to bring a fictionalized version of his life to the big screen with filmmaker Alma Har’el in the director’s seat and co-starring Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges. Could this film bring some light to his inner turmoil or should it have been a stunt that should have never been performed?
Honey Boy brings to life a young actor's stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health. Fictionalizing his ascent to stardom, and subsequent crash-landing into rehab and recovery, Otis Lort, navigating different stages in a frenetic career. LaBeouf takes on the therapeutic challenge of playing a version of his own father, an ex-rodeo clown and a felon. Dancer-singer FKA twigs makes her feature-film debut, playing neighbor and kindred spirit to the younger Otis in their garden-court motel home. Har'el's feature narrative debut is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between filmmaker and subject, exploring art as medicine and imagination as hope through the life and times of a talented, traumatized performer who dares to go in search of himself.
I have been eagerly looking forward to this film and am happy to say I was not disappointed. No matter what you think of LeBeouf there is no denying his talent. Here he puts it all out there allowing us a peek at things that occurred in his life making the film not only a biopic of sorts, but clearly lethargic for himself. Making films in all facets is not an easy process, but to also put the struggles of your own life out there dirt and all makes it all the harder. To even add more insane brilliance to the film and performance LeBeouf takes on the role of his own father that could not have been easy to experience. He is so good here once again showcasing his range and greatness as an actor.
His supporting cast in both Hodges and Jupe do great jobs as well bringing all the emotion and struggles to the forefront while full capturing the varying age personas of LeBouf himself. There is an interesting format to the storytelling as it bounces between time lines and story arcs in different times of his life with one showcasing the childhood and the other being his adult struggles. Both feed the other to take him to where he is now and what drove him to the addiction and emotional struggles he has had over the years as he grew up in the spotlight.
Make no mistake this is not a fun ride and outside of the coolness of the recreation of some of the sets and shoots he worked on it is pretty heavy. The overall family dynamic between LeBouf and his father was damaged to say the least, but there was clearly still a love there even if it wasn’t in the most traditional sense. Even bigger than this film is the greatness of seeing LeBouf doing interviews after this film and one of my favorites of The Peanut Butter Falcon. He just seems to be in a better place and I love that it was projects like this that helped him get there.