Honey Boy – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director: Alma Har’el
Writer: Shia LaBeouf
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe
We are first introduced to Otis (Lucas Hedges), aged 22, as a stunt man on a film set. However, the film then jumps back in time to Otis (Noah Jupe) as a twelve-year-old boy. He is a child star working in the film industry. His parents are separated and he lives in a shabby motel in a cramped space with his father. His father, James Lort (Shia LeBeouf), has an unimpressive history of alcohol, drug and sexual abuse but it is Otis’ earnings in the movies that provide the wherewithal for them to live. The movie switches between these two periods in his life to give us a rounded view of his upbringing.
Shia LeBeouf wrote the script as part of a court-appointed rehab he attended, so he is playing a character who represents his own father. It is an impressive performance particularly when he is interacting with Noah Jupe as the 12-year-old. Lort is in many ways contemptuous of the young Otis and humiliates and scorns him but he is financially dependent on him which makes for a dynamic that generates conflicting emotions. The young Otis has a relationship with a ‘Shy Girl’ (FKA twigs) which would appear to be at an advanced level. Such an upbringing is likely to leave scars and these are all too apparent in the 22-year-old Otis who is in a rage with the world. As a result, he is ordered by a court to serve time in a rehabilitation centre and while there he is asked by his doctor (Dr. Moreno played by Laura San Giacomo) to write about his childhood relationship with his father.
Le Beouf carried out such a task in his own life and that is the basis for the script. The decision therefore to play his own father James Lort is a brave one. As an acting performance, it works especially in the cramped relationship with the 12-year-old Otis in the crappy motel. Jupe gives a stellar performance. Le Beouf as the father in the film, therefore, undertakes the challenge of interacting with his 12 year old self and 22-year-old self. He gives a performance which has a suffocating brilliance.
This complex scenario manages also to work as a film because the direction of Ha’rel keeps the tense relationship between father and son central. It is an out of the ordinary father and son story but that makes for the film’s fascination. The performances of LeBeouf and Jupe are both memorable.