Monday, February 14, 2022

Movie Monday: Honey Boy

Sometimes I search through the Rotten Tomatoes website, checking out movie ratings for movies we see on our streaming channels. It's always disappointing when you see something that sounds good and then check to find out it had a 30% rating with critics and 20% with viewers! But one movie recently caught my eye because it had an almost-perfect score with critics and viewers alike: Honey Boy, written by and starring Shia LaBeouf (and said to be semi-autobiographical). We both enjoyed this entertaining and moving film about a dysfunctional childhood.

Young Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) stars as Otis, a twelve-year-old child actor, struggling to make it in Hollywood. He lives with his father, James, an ex-rodeo clown and recovering alcoholic, played by an almost-unrecognizable Shia LaBeouf. The two of them live in a shabby roadside motel, and their closest neighbors are a group of young prostitutes. Otis supports the two of them, which his father both relies on and resents. James is one of the most dysfunctional fathers you've ever seen on screen (which is saying something). Alternating scenes take place in the future when Otis, now 22 and played by Lucas Hedges, has become a Hollywood action star, living a life filled with alcohol, drugs, and women. Driving drunk one night, he gets in a terrible accident and is sent to rehab. There, his therapist, played by the great Laura San Giacomo, tells him he displays all the signs of PTSD, though he insists he's never suffered trauma. Little by little in rehab, he begins to open up and remember his childhood, which is shown to viewers in alternating scenes. 

This is a powerful way to tell the story of a traumatic, difficult childhood, by simultaneously showing his childhood as it happens and also the effects of that childhood on his adult self. The movie was nominated for and won numerous awards, especially for the writing by Shia LaBeouf, directing by first-time director Alma Har'el, and the incredible performance by young Noah Jupe, as a child who desperately needs a parent--and love--and is growing up too fast out of necessity. It's a powerful, moving film, but it's also entertaining. While the viewer grieves for the lost childhood of young Otis, we are also given reason to hope for a better future for grown-up Otis. One can only imagine that writing this film and then playing a version of his own father must have been very emotional and therapeutic for LaBeouf. He certainly provides a very raw and honest story, powerfully told.

Honey Boy is from Amazon Studios and is available on Amazon Prime.

If you--like me--are interested in knowing more about Shia LaBeouf's feelings about bringing his strange childhood to life on the screen and playing his own Dad, check out this excellent interview with Jimmy Kimmel.


No comments: