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Honey Boy – Movie Review

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Honey Boy – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Shia LaBeouf has led an interesting career, going from child actor to mainstream movie headliner to a player in the independent scene. He has proven himself to be a very good actor, even with his off-screen personal troubles (which are none of our business, anyway). Honey Boy allows him the opportunity to deal with the trauma of his past and it’s a worthy attempt. As a film, though, Honey Boy feels padded out with too many obvious metaphors and overtly artsy scenes. Ignoring the person behind the screenplay, it doesn’t feel like we learn too much about the on-screen characters.

It’s easy to make the connection with LaBeouf’s life, but those looking for a fictionalized portrait of his acting career may be surprised at what the film shows. There are a few hints at his time making Transformers movies and the Disney Channel series Even Stevens, but the film is more an examination about his relationship with his father. Some of the best scenes do come from young Otis’s interactions with his abusive father James. Noah Jupe delivers a fantastic performance, showing a child dealing with a unglamorous life away from the Hollywood sound stages. LaBeouf also succeeds at showing James’s poor parenting skills and how his mental state isn’t quite right.

There are a few scenes featuring Lucas Hedges as an older Otis, but these aren’t as frequent as the ones with his twelve year old self. There isn’t enough screentime given to get a grasp of what he has become and these end up as some of the least interesting parts of Honey Boy. Director Alma Har’el and LaBeouf go heavy on the metaphors, none of which are subtle. A recurring motif with a chicken is immediately obvious and the pay-off is expected. They also employ far too many scenes of characters just staring. They don’t develop the characters and instead seem to just pad the film out.

The main character being an actor doesn’t matter all that much to the narrative, outside of showing a child earning more than the parent and the potential power that gives him. By the end, it doesn’t seem like much is learned about Otis and James outside of little morsels. As a fictionalized version of his life, it’s not all that fleshed out, so the film requires us to fill in the blanks by looking at Shia LaBeouf’s Wikipedia page. LaBeouf clearly wanted to explore a lot about his own personal demons and what led him to enter rehab in the first place, but there are large chunks of the story missing. One almost wonders what the movie would have been like if he directed Honey Boy himself.

One can certainly admire Honey Boy for what it sets out to do, but the end result tries a little too hard to be artistic. There are too many scenes of characters quietly looking off into the distance and not enough time on exploring who they actually are. What drives a lot of the movie are the two central performances from LaBeouf and Jupe. Jupe has to do a lot of heavy lifting in Honey Boy and he does an excellent job at making Otis a sympathetic, but still heavily flawed lead. However, there is a good amount missing that would have helped make the film just a tad more fleshed out.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison