What a year 2019 was for Shia LaBeouf, first with ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ in which he was an acting force to be reckoned with and now with Honey Boy where he serves as a writer and actor. A self-reflection of sorts written during his time in rehab, it is given to Alma Har’el to direct which turned out to be absolutely the right choice. The film has a personal story and thought that does reduce some of the cinematic effect, it never comes off self-indulgent or arrogant but instead it is a very honest look at someone’s growth from childhood to adulthood.
Har’el does magnificent work and seems to lead this movie both with her own vision and with sincere care about her friend’s words. The shots are perfect whenever there is a private conversation happening between two people, letting the viewer to almost be a visible part of it in the room. LaBeouf plays James Lort who is based on LaBeouf’s real father and oh my, he acts his heart out here in a part which probably was the hardest of his career so far. It’s a performance that you can’t look away from. Otis Lort (based on LaBeouf himself) is played by both Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges in different ages and it is another strong showing from youngster Jupe following ‘Ford v Ferrari’ and ‘A Quiet Place’. The script is written very well, not too showy for an intimate story but not too simple to express feelings about abuse and lack of stability as a child.
Where as Jupe is solid, Hedges seems completely miscast as the older Otis. His parts just come off as being a sad boy with a sad addiction, on top of that it’s combined with much less interesting dialogue and visuals compared to the childhood scenes. I just never buy him as Otis (or as Shia for that matter). Honey Boy is at it’s strongest in those vital boy-growing-up scenes and I do wish there was more of that, even if it wasn’t completely factual. Instead there are some scenes that offer nothing but pretty cool shots and unnecessary work for the production designer.
Smileys: Directing, Shia LaBeouf, screenplay
Frowneys: Most of rehab scenes overall, casting of Hedges
Man, it’s just great to see someone’s career taking a turn for the better.