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  Honey Boy Blame The Parents
Year: 2019
Director: Alma Ha'rel
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Byron Bowers, Laura San Giacomo, FKA Twigs, Natasha Lyonne, Maika Monroe, Clifton Collins Jr, Mario Ponce, Martin Starr, Haylee Sanchez, Giovanni Lopes, Dorian Brown Pham, Greta Jung, Craig Stark
Genre: Drama, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Otis (Lucas Hedges) is in a bad way. It should not be like that, for he is starring in a blockbuster movie and being paid handsomely for the privilege, with every opportunity in life that should bring, yet he is merely using that to get off his face on drink and drugs and sleep around to sate his libido. He cares for nobody but himself, and getting those highs is his main purpose in his existence, which is why he ends up arrested for driving under the influence and causing a dramatic traffic accident; to escape jail time he agrees to go to rehab, where he can get cured of his addictions. But he discovers something he did not realise while there: the reason he does these things is down to childhood PTSD...

Honey Boy was based on real life itself, the career and experiences of Shia LaBeouf, who penned the screenplay while in rehab, much as his lead character and surrogate does throughout the course of what was essentially a biopic. He did not play himself in it, however, leaving that to Hedges for the twentysomething sequences, and young British actor Noah Jupe as his twelve-year-old self, but he was part of the cast. He gave himself the plum role of his own father, here called James Lort, and the man he identified as the source of that trauma he suffered throughout his younger years, essaying him in largely unsentimental fashion that made you wonder if he was score-settling.

That may cross your mind more than once when we see how downright awful the father is to his son and meal ticket Otis, who he will not admit he resents for being the breadwinner as his own career as a rodeo clown brought in about as much income as you might expect, that was, not as much as his boy making an increasing profit as a bankable property in child star form. Yet for all the money he is starting to make, he and his dad still live in a seedy motel, and social services are taking an interest in their arrangement as Otis's mother (Natasha Lyonne) cannot do anything to prevent him from relying on James for someone to at least keep a roof over his head, no matter how desperately lonely the kid is.

Life for him at twelve was a cycle of work and boredom, with nobody to really talk to aside from a father who rambles in lieu of conversation and hits him when he steps out of line, stepping out of line here being asking him to look after Otis better. A social worker (Clifton Collins Jr) who shows up to look after the child is beaten up by James then thrown in the pool where the boy takes his solace by swimming for hours, an act which pretty much sums up the attitude of James: when he is not getting high, he is making a nuisance of himself. This was all very well, but the whole enterprise smacked of a therapy session, only instead of talking it through with a psychologist, LaBeouf was putting it down on the page to take advantage of his lowest moments in this resulting picture, and that was an issue.

The star was not uncontroversial, thanks to his bad behaviour off screen, tendency towards publicity stunts and the criticism he received for his acting (some have never forgiven him for his Indiana Jones turn), and that harsh judgement aimed at him seemed to be partly the motive for this biopic, asking if you still felt like judging him after seeing what a tough life he had. Which was fair enough as far as that went, you did understand the actor better on seeing how he felt about his upbringing, but whether it was substantial enough for what looked suspiciously like a vanity project was another question. Under documentarian Alma Ha'rel's direction, there were some decent performances to indulge, and everyone plainly had faith in the material, but it was terribly one-note and monotonous, and maybe more of a problem, not half as enlightening as you imagined they were hoping. You'll appreciate the acting, certainly, but only Shia fans would be interested. Music by Alex Somers.

[Four featurettes are on the Blu-ray from Sony.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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