Shia LaBeouf has been the subject of controversy for pretty much his entire life. His public struggles with substance abuse, his mental health, and most recently his sexual assault allegations have all contributed to his ongoing public decline. With the Netflix release of his latest film Pieces of a Woman happening this weekend, I felt it was time to watch a few more of his recent films. I wanted to try and get a full picture of who this guy is and why he appears to be so shattered. Honey Boy told me pretty much everything I needed to know. It's his story, with LaBeouf playing his own abusive, manipulative father who pushed him into acting.
Otis Lort (Hedges and Jupe in equally powerful performances) is a young actor struggling with substance abuse and his rocky relationship with his father, who is also his chaperone. We get two different times in Otis's life, when he's 12 and working on a successful kids show (Even Stevens, anyone?) and when he's 22 and in rehab after getting arrested. Throughout, we see how Otis's father has been the most significant relationship of his life, despite everything James (LaBeouf) did to him. It's a harsh, complex movie that acts as the ultimate catharsis for LaBeouf to hopefully move on from some stuff.
Honey Boy is an Amazon Original, which means it will be there forever. I urge fans of LaBeouf's to watch it so they can get some clarity on why he is the way that he is, and I encourage non-fans to watch it so you can get where all the rage comes from. His story is one that is relatable and painful, and I hope LaBeouf was able to grow as a person after making it. I want to like him, but he makes it so goddamn impossible.
I remember seeing the trailer for Honey Boy earlier this year and screaming, “Hedges is gonna play Louis Stevens!” I was a big fan of Even Stevens growing up and as Shia has grown up, I’ve watched him in films. I always knew he would write something, but I didn’t anticipate it being a film about his relationship with his father. I also didn’t know that he would play his own father. The anticipation going in was very real to me and I was impressed with the end product for sure.
Noah Jupe plays 12 year old Otis and Lucas Hedges plays 22 year old Otis. Otis is a fictional version of Shia and the story flips back and forth between the young Otis and the older Otis. Shia LaBeouf plays James, who is a fictional version of his father. Shia continues to blow me away with his ability to just get better at his craft. It’s really that simple and playing your own dad has got to be so damn tough. As the story flips back and forth, we see connections from his childhood to his decision making as an adult. If you know Shia, you know things get rough in Honey Boy.
I think Shia has a gift as a writer and first time director Alma Har’el clearly has an eye for this. The film moves with a pace that is so easy to get on board with and fits so much inside an hour and a half window. I read somewhere that this is an egoless retelling of Shia’s life. That’s false, there’s just an awareness of how big his ego has gotten in the past. Maybe a broken ego, but not egoless. Honey Boy will impact you even if you know nothing about Louis Stevens because of the heavy themes that are highlighted. If you do have any affiliation to the Stevens family, then bring some fucking tissues.