The Semi-Autobiographical ‘Honey Boy’ Puts Shia LaBeouf’s Decades-in-Coming Therapy on the Big Screen

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CREDIT: Amazon Studios

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs, Maika Monroe, Martin Starr, Natasha Lyonne (but only on the phone)

Director: Alma Har’el

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for A Dad and a Young Son Using Way Too Much Profanity with Each Other

Release Date: November 8, 2019 (Limited)

Honey Boy is an almost-biopic, based on Shia LaBeouf’s preteen days as a child actor with a pushy, erratic father. I had not read any synopsis ahead of time, so I was unaware of this fact until the credits started to roll, so for me it was a nice little bonus that put everything into clearer focus. And we needed that perspective, because it’s exhausting to spend so much time in a motel with Shia stand-in Otis Lort (Noah Jupe) being emotionally abused the same way over and over by his balding, pot-bellied father James (LaBeouf doing a riff on his own dad). At least the rehab scenes with an older Otis (Lucas Hedges) offer some opportunities for a breakthrough. A particular highlight is his tête-à-tête with an as-stone-faced-as-usual Martin Starr about the nature of acting and sincerity (Otis, and presumably the real Shia, believes that day-to-day-living is just another form of acting).

While I found much of Honey Boy too unpleasant to fully embrace, its nakedly autobiographical nature is fascinating. It reminded me in particular of the Community Season 1 episode “Introduction to Film,” wherein aspiring filmmaker Abed makes a short documentary-fiction hybrid in which he covertly casts his friends as his divorced parents. Its experimental nature flat-out confounds his study buddies, but it leaves his usually cold father in a puddle of tears. So similarly, while I found Honey Boy off-putting, I can imagine that for LaBeouf and those close to him, this is exactly the sort of therapy they need. When he shows it to his dad, maybe it will prove to be the spark that leads to their relationship being healthier than it’s ever been.

Honey Boy is Recommended If You Like: Artists working through their familial demons in their art, That time when Shia LaBeouf watched his own movies

Grade: 3 out of 5 Cheap Motels

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This Is a Movie Review: A Quiet Place

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CREDIT: Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

This post was originally published on News Cult in April 2018.

Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Director: John Krasinski

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Nightmare-Inducing Creature Design and Quickly Edited Disemboweling

Release Date: April 6, 2018

Effective horror movies are often built around a simple hook, and A Quiet Place has a doozy: a family must remain ever silent because they are being terrorized by something that strikes whenever it hears the merest peep. It is such a doozy, in fact, that a very similar setup was employed just a couple of years ago in Don’t Breathe (wherein a crew of burglars had to escape the detection of a blind man). Do we have a boomlet of the “silence is golden” horror subgenre on our hands? The results thus far are encouraging. There is plenty of variation possible in turning away from modern cinema’s default reliance on dialogue, with A Quiet Place exploring the effect it has on nuclear family dynamics.

It has been about a year since these sound-seekers have begun their attacks, and life on Earth has adjusted accordingly. It is unclear how much of the world’s population has been decimated, but even if it is a relatively small percentage, it might as well be just about everybody, as survival requires solitude. This particular family has lucked out in a way, as they have a deaf daughter (played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds) and are accordingly all fluent in sign language. It is another simple but effective flip: turning a disability into a strategic advantage.

John Krasinski, directing and playing the father, trains us to become fully absorbed in every frame, thus allowing A Quiet Place to pull off killer set piece after killer set piece. From 30 minutes in all the way to the conclusion, this is a non-stop nailbiter. Father and son (Noah Jupe) head off to gather up some food, while daughter revisits a scene of tragedy, leaving pregnant mom (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real life wife) home alone to deliver the most silent natural birth ever. There is a lot of resourcefulness on display in keeping the attackers at bay. It is almost a sort of Home Alone-style boobytrapping ingenuity, but the kind that minimizes pratfalls and nut shots.

While A Quiet Place consistently pulls off the visceral thrills, it is not quite as satisfying when it attempts to examine the why and the how. That is not because the answers it offers are unsatisfying per se, but rather because they end up working out a little too perfectly. These creatures are the type that are mostly indestructible but have that one little weakness. In many ways, A Quiet Place resembles Signs, particularly the method for defeating the creatures. It is not quite as ridiculous Shyamalan’s “you gotta have faith” randomness. A Quiet Place’s resolution that is fairly set up and is actually reasonably clever. But it leaves me weirdly disappointed that the terror has been deflated seemingly so thoroughly. I am left in a paradoxical state, as it gives me the rousing resolution I wanted while depriving me of a continued pounding heartbeat as I walk out the theater. Perhaps if the ending had swerved into a Mars Attacks!-style comedic turnaround (with which it shares some DNA), I would have forgiven the excess perfectness. But I can settle for the steady relentlessness that the majority of A Quiet Place delivers.

A Quiet Place is Recommended If You Like: Don’t Breathe, Alien, Signs

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Shushes

 

This Is a Movie Review: Wonder

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CREDIT: Lionsgate Entertainment

I give Wonder 3.5 out of 5 Astronaut Helmets: http://newscult.com/movie-review-wonders-lessons-kindness-obvious-timelessly-valuable/

This Is a Movie Review: Suburbicon

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures/Black Bear Pictures

I give Suburbicon 2.5 out of 5 Explosions: http://newscult.com/movie-review-suburbicon-pokes-myth-utopian-america-exposing-latent-criminality-racism-chaotic-intermittently-thrilling-results/