Whew boy, there is a lot to unpack here.
Honey Boy is a 2019 film directed by Alma Har’el, written by and starring Shia LaBeouf, along with Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe. LaBeouf has been one of the most talked about actors of the last decade, but not always for the most positive reasons. He’s had a rocky relationship with fame and the limelight over the years, starting at a young age on the series Even Stevens, before eventually transitioning into film in movies such as Disturbia and the Transformers series. LaBeouf is a natural talent, but unfortunately his acting ability was not the talk of the town during the early/mid 2010s.
Shia would later be seen partaking in peculiar publicity “stunts” that led many to believe he was having a breakdown. Showing up to an awards show wearing a paper bag on his said that read “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE”, hosting an “interactive art experience” where people could sit in front of him while he cried, and various run ins with the law were some of the highlights of LaBeouf’s public persona. Many believed we were watching the self-destruction of a talented young actor right before our eyes, and in some ways we were.
LaBeouf was thankfully checked into a rehabilitation program to deal with his demons, and through encouragement to write out where he thinks his problems stem from, he produced the script that would go on to become Honey Boy. Serving as a semi-fictional parallel of Shia’s own life, Honey Boy explores the relationship of a child star and his self-loathing, former rodeo clown father. We explore the child’s unusual upbringing living in a motel, befriending a sex worker, and eventually becoming a movie star with PTSD and issues with alcohol abuse.
Every aspect of Shia’s story is captured wonderfully in the emotional, depth-filled performances from its lead cast. Noah Jupe, who you may recognize as the son from the horror blockbuster A Quiet Place, has to be one of the most talented child actors working today. His portrayal of the young child star Otis is so authentically raw and believable that it never feels like an act, as his performance is one of the most restrained yet emotionally powerful performance I’ve seen from someone his age. Portraying the older, more volatile Otis is Lucas Hedges, owner of too many terrific performances to name. It took me a second viewing to see just how impressive Hedges is as he embodies Shia through his mannerisms and speech patterns. His performance is fueled by anger and frustration, which leads to beautiful moments with him coming to terms with his past and his father.
Speaking of which, Shia LaBeouf portrays James Lort, Otis’s father and the fictionalized portrayal of Shia’s own father. In what has to be the most cathartic role of his life, Shia performance as his father is not one entirely built on resentment or hatred. In a way, Shia attempts to find reason and understanding in his father, portraying him not as a controlling asshole that completely warped Shia‘s own childhood, but as a flawed human who genuinely cares but can’t come to grips with the fact he may forever live in the shadow of his own son. Shia’s portrayal isn’t only meant for the audience, it’s meant for himself. To play the man that you thought you hated for years only to realize the demons and feelings they dealt with for years had to have been life-changing for Shia himself. The way Shia flips between jealousy and supportiveness, or caring and resentful is truly impressive and is one of the best performances of 2019. Not many actors are seen in a vulnerable position such as this, and I’m convinced few actors could capture that inner turmoil as well as LaBeouf.
There’s a lot I took away from this film on a personal level. The idea of inheriting your parent’s trauma is something I’ve seen in a few individuals in my life, and I’m guilty of dismissing them without realizing they may very well be trying to better themselves. Forgiveness is the heart of this film. As Otis begins to come to terms with his past and his relationship with his father, so too did Shia in the production of this film. As much as this film is shown to be about Otis, it is at the same time about James and the unraveling of both Otis’s and Shia’s perception of him. The realization and acceptance of the more traumatizing points of childhood pour out simultaneously through Jupe’s performance Shia’s words. Shia’s epiphany shines down on the script, capturing moments of clarity where we realize the only direction we can move is forward, and the less contempt we carry in our heart the better.
Although the portrayal of childhood PTSD generated from a very clear antagonist is easy to latch onto as a moviegoer, I feel there’s a lot more complexity to Otis that was passed over simply because he is a reflection of Shia, who happens to be behind the reigns of the story. Otis is for sure a victim, but we rarely get to see how this has played into his adulthood and his many well-documented altercations with the law. Because this portion of Otis’s life is almost entirely glossed over, its hard to really say how accurate of an adaptation this is. I was left wanting more, wanting to see how the themes the film so heavily focuses on actually affects its characters. We’re told so much, but not exactly shown.
Honey Boy is, by all accounts, a one of a kind piece of cinematic therapy, for both the viewers and the writer/star himself. It doesn’t pull punches in its shocking and raw portrayal of growing up a child star in the wrong hands, but most viewers will take away the dirtied portrayal of humanity as a sign to better ourselves against the holes we found ourselves dug in. Its bittersweet ending left me satisfied despite its refrain from digging a little deeper. My only hope for this film is that it will point Shia LaBeouf in the right direction of dealing with his demons, and hopefully ultimately finding the clarity and peace he most definitely deserves.
Pie Fight Martini
More than just a piece of marketing, the imagery of being pied in the face is a clever way to show the parallels between Otis and James. The pie scene involving Otis showcased in the film is a call-back to a similar scene from Even Stevens, while simultaneously connecting to James’s rodeo clown past. It’s something both actors have experienced, the only difference being that Otis is being paid a good amount of money and quickly becoming a star while James is essentially employed by his son. It’s another way to understand James’s bitterness and volatile behavior, and a good excuse to remake a dessert into cocktail form.
The Pie Fight martini is essentially a liquified version of a banana cream pie, using banana liqueur for flavor and Rumchata for creaminess and the bulk of the alcoholic content. To give this “pie” its “crust”, we used honey to stick crushed graham crackers to the rim, thus creating a boozy dessert drink acceptable for any season.
- 2oz Rumchata
- 3/4oz banana liqueur
- Graham crackers
- Crush a few graham crackers until granulated in a bag.
- Coat the rim of a martini glass in honey, then cover the rim with the granulated graham crackers.
- Shake the Rumchata and banana liqueur with ice.
- Strain into prepared martini glass.