Honey Boy

honey_boySTARS1.5Ever since actor Shia LaBeouf was arrested for drunk driving in 2008 the sordid events of his personal life have often overshadowed his work.  He wrote this script based on his own life as a form of therapy while in rehab in 2017.  While it may have helped him face his inner demons, those experiences should’ve remained on paper and never been acted out into an actual film.  Someone once said great art comes from great pain.  That person never saw this movie.

Honey Boy is a thoroughly unpleasant film.  If I had to distill this meandering reminiscence into a plot, I’d say it was a random collection of hateful musings concerning a 12-year-old child actor named Otis Lort (Jupe) and his abusive father, James, played by Shia LaBeouf himself.  Dad was once a rodeo clown but now is the child’s guardian.  Together they live in a grubby looking extended-stay motel.  His father has extreme difficulty living a well adjusted life.  He is a convicted felon having served three years for rape.  James has an argument with Otis’s mother (Natasha Lyonne) on the phone but not directly.  He conveys his anger through his son.  It’s an awkward exchange.  He throws his mother’s boyfriend (Clifton Collins Jr.) in the pool.  Later James punches his young son dead on in the face.  A lot of other troublesome things happen too.

These details are randomly doled out without any sense of dramatic thrust.  The ostensible purpose is to present the idea that daddy was a bad man.  However, even that portrait is suspect.  The vignettes are so anecdotal that it’s hard to tell whether we can even trust the filmmakers’ point of view.  We haphazardly learn about his father by putting the pieces of a narrative that is composed of plot threads.  Some of these recollections occasionally jump to an older 22-year-old version of Otis in rehab played by Lucas Hedges.  Incidentally, Hedges and Jupe look absolutely nothing alike but I concede that may have been an intentional artistic choice.

Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, and Noah Jupe are talented actors.  There is a certain amount of emotional nuance and technical craft that shapes these performances, but to what end?  A drama should entertain with a sense of purpose.  If the production mainly functions as an irritation then perhaps the effort is wasted.  Ultimately nothing is resolved.  The whole exercise seems self-indulgent.  That is to say, it isn’t entertaining for us as an audience but it allows Shia to grapple with his psychological problems.  Although I don’t get the idea after having watched this story that Shia has changed in any meaningful way.  In a truly meta moment, the two have a conversation about the picture we are literally watching right now.  Otis promises his dad that he will make a movie about him one day.  “Well alright,” James says, “make me look good honey boy.’”  It would appear that Shia still has some unresolved issues to work through.

11-25-19

4 Responses to “Honey Boy”

  1. Hmm. . . whenever Shia LeBeouf swings and misses I tend to go ahead and do the second thing with that movie. Damn. Too bad.

    Like

  2. I like Shia and the kid who played him in this movie, but wow! What a disappointment! Why would you show such a nasty experience of your life? Nothing positive at all. 1 Star

    Like

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