Shia Labeouf’s autobiography brings tears to your eyes.
When you see two different actors being pulled away by wires at the end of their scenes in an orchestrated manner, you can tell you’re in for a treat. They would happen to be Lucas Hedges, who gets pushed away by an explosion, and Noah Jupe, who gets pied in the face. They both portray the same person from different decades (1995 and 2005), Otis Lort, or as his dad calls him: “Honey Boy.”
The movie “Honey Boy” was directed by Alma Har’el, who is best known for such docs as “Bombay Beach” and “LoveTrue” and is the founder of “Free the Bid” initiative. She reunites with her “LoveTrue” producer Shia LaBeouf, who wrote the film’s screenplay, based on his own life.
In the 1995 setting, he plays Otis’s father James (based on his own pop), a former coke head, alcoholic, sex offender, solider, rodeo clown, and abuse victim, who struggles to find work, while Otis’ acting career pays the bills. In a sense, he works for his boy, although the young lad wishes he could act more like a father and less like an acting coach.
And while James tries and fails to run from the past, little Otis (Jupe) falls for an older neighbor of his-named Shy Girl (FKA Twigs, an English singer I’m introduced to). Despite her disagreements with his dad, the two fool around a bit.
In the 2005 period, the older Otis (Hedges) is in rehab for his alcoholic behavior, and struggles to take advice from his supporters (Laura San Giacomo and Martin Starr). He’s suggested that he writes about his childhood and why he’s driven to depression. For the record, his father isn’t the reason he drinks, because he’s the reason he works as an actor.
It took me a while to understand the realities presented here, but I found myself in an emotional state, when I teared. I blame that on LaBeouf, Hedges, and Jupe for providing me such sincerely heartbreaking moments. They’re all struggling to overcome their demons, and even with such challenges, we’re still rooting for them to get better.
Let’s face it, these three actors are profound. Ever since Hedges starred in “Manchester by the Sea” and Jupe starred in “Wonder,” we’re really seeing something unique about these two young actors. And it’s really refreshing to see LaBeouf getting his act together. His autobiography clinches it.
You also get some charming supporting work from Giacomo, Starr, and Twigs, because of how they all try to bring out the best of the father and son. And even if Natasha Lyonne (as the boy’s mother) is heard only on the phone, there’s an argument between her and the father that utterly amazes you with how it explodes.
“Honey Boy” is quite impressive, given the circumstances of its hidden humor, real emotions, and a sweetness that moves you. Director Alma Har’el has expanded her horizons by going from documentaries and music videos to a wondrous entry at the Chicago International Film Festival. I should know, because I was there.
Don’t miss it.
In Select Theaters November 8