Honey Boy - A-
Rated R, 95 minutes
It's clear from watching the unconventional yet compelling autobiographical drama "Honey Boy" that Disney and "Transformers" star Shia LeBeouf comes from a long line of artists. It's also clear that his childhood was troubled and speaks to the actor's own personal struggles in recent years. Written as a form of therapy to work through some of these issues, LeBeouf wrote the script for "Honey Boy," which so named for the actor's own childhood nickname.
Young actor Otis's ("A Quiet Place's" Noah Jupe) stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father (LeBeouf) through cinema and dreams. It follows Otis's childhood ascent to stardom, and subsequent adult (played by Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges) crash-landing into rehab and recovery, as he grapples with the relationship with his own father, an ex-rodeo clown and a felon.
"Honey Boy" is directed by Israeli music video director Alma Har'el on LeBeouf's script, and it's superbly acted, stark view of the actor's childhood, fraught with intensity from LeBeouf's Dad, who LeBeouf himself plays here in one of his best performances to date. LeBeouf has started to move away from his Disney and "Transformers" persona and this intense performance should do that even more, showing deep texture and an intensity that LeBeouf has harbored for years even in his other films.
Just as remarkable is the performance from British actor Jupe as a young version of LeBeouf, and showing vulnerability and a quiet strength, is able to stand toe to toe with LeBeouf so that LeBeouf doesn't threaten to overtake the film, which he occasionally does. LeBeouf's script leisurely alternates between past and present, and the narrative is occasionally shaky, but otherwise is a solid first outing for the actor, who obviously had a thing or two to say here.
"Honey Boy" will periodically shock you, which it's intended too, and is peppered with moments of humor that can be found in such a dark situation such as this. LeBeouf's mother is hardly seen (but mostly heard of), but this is his attempt to deal with his daddy issues, as his real relationship with his mother is a little more stable than this. Hedges, as the adult Otis/Shia, is also affecting in largely a supporting part.
"Honey Boy" is a low-budget winner and often hard to watch, but will stick with you long after you leave the theater. It's nice to see Shia - no pun intended - transform into a brave, strong actor, as well as deal with his demons. Good for you, Shia. Good for you.