It’s always interesting to see what projects Shia LaBeouf is working on.
Whether it be big-budget blockbusters, such as the fourth film in the “Indiana Jones” series and “Transformers,” or smaller films such as “Fury” and “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” LaBeouf usually delivers something that, while not always good, will certainly give audiences something to talk about.
LaBeouf’s latest film, “Honey Boy,” is far-and-away his most personal film yet. While directed by Alma Har’el, the script is written by LaBeouf, and it stands an autobiographical look at the life of a man who has been working in the film industry since he was a child. Though the lead character in this film is named Otis, it’s apparent he is just LaBeouf with a different name.
Over the course of the film, the audience sees Otis at different points in his life. “Honey Boy” opens with a 22-year-old Otis, played by Lucas Hedges, at the peak of his career, working at an almost non-stop pace and living a life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — or rather sex, drugs and filmmaking. The film then depicts Otis entering rehab for his addictions to alcohol and drugs. While there, Otis struggles to overcome the traumas of his childhood, which are depicted through flashbacks where a 12-year-old Otis, played by Noah Jupe, endures a very unhealthy and abusive relationship with his father, played by LaBeouf. LaBeouf seems to channel his own similar relationship with his father into his performance, adding to the autobiographical nature of the film for LaBeouf.
The intense, brutal honesty that LaBeouf brings to this film is jaw-dropping. Considering the story is based on his own childhood, one could expect the story to be sugar-coated to present LaBeouf or his father in a better light. However, it’s very clear from the moment the film starts that isn’t the case here. This is the true story of LaBeouf’s childhood, making it all the more interesting to watch. Through his script and performance, he is baring his soul for audiences to see, and it’s an incredibly emotional and visceral experience to behold.
The performances from the whole cast throughout the film are stellar. Hedges and Jupe are both excellent in their portrayals of Otis at these different points in his life. Jupe’s performance is particularly impressive considering he’s only 14 years old and is given more to do than Hedges in this film. Jupe depicts Otis as he goes through all of the traumas of his childhood, while Hedges is only reflecting upon them. Hedges was fantastic with what he was given to do, but, because of the meat of the material, Jupe is who will be talked about more by audiences.
However, the real hard-hitting performance is undoubtedly LaBeouf’s portrayal of his father. It was nothing short of breathtaking. Somehow, after writing and starring in a film based on his own experiences, he managed to completely submerge himself in the role and make the audience forget he was even there. LaBeouf brought such an intense sense of pride, grief and pain to the role, and the result is an Oscar-worthy performance that is undoubtedly the best of his career.
“Honey Boy” is a painfully real and honest reflection on LaBeouf’s life from his perspective. It showcases the stress and mistreatment that some child actors go through, and it highlights the genuine pain felt by a star who struggles with substance abuse. LaBeouf’s performance as his father was one of the best of the year, and it deserves to be recognized this awards season.
Following “Peanut Butter Falcon,” this is the second film this year in which LaBeouf has proven his dramatic-acting chops, and now I’m more interested than ever to see where he goes.