We’ve seen Shia LaBeouf grow up right in front of our eyes as one of Hollywood’s most successful child-actor-turned-blockbuster-film-stars. He’s a rugged, compelling personality with a long history of ups and downs, that his new movie and emotional thriller, Honey Boy visualizes for us.
Honey Boy was filmed using the ultimate spin on what a creative biopic could be, and its execution couldn’t have been more perfect. The film was unpredictable, staying away from the typical movie structure filled with clichés where the audience can typically guess what’s going to happen next.
Shia LaBeouf plays his father alongside Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges, who play the both the 12-year-old and adult versions of him. In the film, Shia’s father was an ex-rodeo clown with a bit of a hard-ass personality. A man who failed at becoming a star himself, he later went on to become his son’s talent manager. Being a failed star was something that mentally took a toll on his father, as he had to watch his son become famous and it was something that Otis later finds out haunted his father during an argument. He had no filter when it came to his words and was very tough on his son. However, Otis and his father still manage to have a special bond filled with intimate and heartfelt father-son moments throughout the movie.
The characters created in this film were well thought-out, with personalities and moments that made you care about what was happening to them. This wasn’t your average biopic where the story is more-so focused on the person’s biggest events or romances, but rather how these moments in Shia’s life brought him to where he was today.
What’s discussed is mental health, the cycle of family trauma and addiction, and a real life look at some of the hard lives of children in America. By day, LaBeouf was a child star who had some pretty big roles as a kid. But at night, he lived a modest life. Leaving set on his father’s motorcycle to go home where he lived in a motel— an entire world away from the Hollywood glitz and the glamour.
The director Alma Ha’rel did a fantastic job using a non-linear storyline, with scenes cutting from one moment of his life to the next. She sets up her shots in a way where both scenes are mirroring each other. This route of storytelling helps us to better understand his life, from moments of neglect by his father as a child on set to later being neglected by his film crew as an adult. Its cinematography featured a dark and moody-vibe using a mix of neon lights and blue muted tones during the nighttime motel scenes, and a sandy nude filter during the day to hone-in on a western, L.A vibe.
After Otis gets admitted into rehab, he is forced to complete exposure therapy, where he must write down and recall events in his life that may be the cause of his PTSD. This is where the magic happens as his character relives moments from the past that caused the distress he came to have. Each scene, and every moment in this film is well-connected with one another, all tying back into what he is currently experiencing in rehab.
During therapy, he talks to his parole officer about how the dynamic between his father, his mother and his life on set which causes him to finally open up in rehab. Scenes like these often stop and start in a similar set-up in a quick cut-scene. This technique is shown when Otis and his roommate are laying down in two separate beds while he is in rehab, the scene cuts to Otis and his father laying their motels bed the exact same way in a different setting in the past.
Ha’rel and LaBeouf have successfully created a film that had the 90’s movie vibe. An honest story, with a feel-good ending. It wasn’t a film that had an unfinished ending to leave an opening for a sequel, there were no distracting hyper-graphics, and it wasn’t a film that tried too hard to prove a point.
Honey Boy successfully turned out exactly how Shia wanted it to be— a great film.