Honey Boy (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alma Har'el|
|Written by||Shia LaBeouf|
|Music by||Alex Somers|
|Distributed by||Amazon Studios|
|Box office||$3.4 million|
Honey Boy is a 2019 American drama film directed by Alma Har'el (in her narrative feature directorial debut) with a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, based on his childhood and his relationship with his father. The film stars LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe and FKA Twigs.
LaBeouf originally wrote the script as a form of therapy while in rehab. The project was announced in March 2018, and the cast was filled out over the next two months. Filming took place in Los Angeles over the course of about three weeks.
Honey Boy had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019 and was released on November 8, 2019, by Amazon Studios. The film has received positive reviews from critics, who praised Har'el's direction as well as the performances of LaBeouf and Jupe.
In 2005, Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges) is a movie star who has an extreme alcohol problem. He crashes his car and gets into a violent, drunken altercation with police. He is forced to go to a rehab facility, where his counselor, Dr. Moreno (Laura San Giacomo), tells him that if he leaves the facility before they say he is ready, the court will send him to prison for his violent offenses. Dr. Moreno tells Otis that he has PTSD, which he denies repeatedly, but she encourages him to look into his past through exposure therapy.
Going back a decade earlier to 1995, Otis (Noah Jupe) remembers working as a child actor, who is accompanied on set by his father, James (Shia LaBeouf), a former rodeo clown. James is four years sober but clearly on edge and unpredictable, manic and aggressive. The two live in a meager motel complex where a shy young woman (FKA Twigs) lives across from them. Otis is in the Big Brother program at the behest of his mother, despite James’s dislike and jealousy. Otis wants to go to a baseball game with Tom (Clifton Collins Jr.) from the program, and James agrees if Tom comes over for a barbecue.
To 2005 again, Otis is shown communicating with his rehab roommate Percy (played by Byron Bowers) and continues therapy. He resists the process, finding it unhelpful. Back to his memories, Otis remembers Tom coming over for the barbecue, and James throwing him into the pool and violently threatening him. When he is offered a part in a movie that will be shot in Canada, Otis calls his mother, who isn't sure if James can accompany him because he’s a registered sex offender. This causes James to begin screaming at her via Otis, who has to relay both of his parents conversations back to each other.
Back to present, after resisting yet again, Otis’s counselor Alec (Martin Starr) advises him to go into the woods and scream as loud as he can. Then the film shows James attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where he tells of his abusive stepmother, how he got into drugs and alcohol abuse, and while blacked out attempted to rape a woman which got him registered as a sex offender. Alone at his place, Otis spends time with the Shy Girl, and the two cuddle and he gives her money.
James forces Otis to rehearse his scenes over and over again, and he stops to scream at the neighbors across the way for being too loud. Otis asks him to stop, and tells him that no one else would hire him because he’s a sex offender, and that Otis is his boss since James is making money off him. In 2005, Otis thanks Alec for the advice, and continues to work with Dr. Moreno on controlling his anger.
In 1995, Otis finally confronts his father and tells him he needs to start being a better dad to him. James hits him in the face twice, furious at Otis for speaking to him that way, and then leaves on his motorcycle and scores drugs at a strip club. Alone, Otis spends time with the Shy Girl, and the two are caught waking up together the next morning by James. The Shy Girl slaps James and leaves, and James vomits and asks Otis how he thinks it feels to hear his own son talk to him like that, and to have to resort to accepting payment from him. Otis tells James if he didn’t pay him James wouldn’t be there.
James takes Otis to marijuana plants he has been growing off the highway and smokes cannabis with him. In 2005, Otis revisits the motel, and imagines himself finding his father there in his rodeo clown costume. He tells his father he’s going to make a movie about him. James asks him to make him look good. The two ride away on James’s motorcycle, which fades into Otis alone driving away.
- Shia LaBeouf as James Lort
- Lucas Hedges as Otis Lort (age 22)
- Noah Jupe as Otis Lort (age 12)
- FKA Twigs as Shy Girl
- Maika Monroe as Sandra
- Natasha Lyonne as Mrs. Lort, Otis’ mother
- Martin Starr as Alec
- Byron Bowers as Percy
- Laura San Giacomo as Dr. Moreno
- Clifton Collins Jr. as Tom
- Graham Clarke as TV Dad
Shia LaBeouf based the script on his own life, with his character being based on his own father, and the title comes from his childhood nickname. LaBeouf wrote the script as a part of his rehabilitation program.
In March 2018, it was announced that Lucas Hedges and LaBeouf had joined the cast of the film, with Alma Har'el directing from a screenplay written by LaBeouf himself. Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Christopher Leggett would produce the film under their Automatik, Stay Gold Features and Delirio Films banners, respectively. Fred Berger would serve as an executive producer. LaBeouf had shared the screenplay with Har'el, a friend and creative collaborator, who decided that she wanted to direct it. In April 2018, Noah Jupe joined the cast of the film. In May 2018, Clifton Collins Jr., Maika Monroe, Natasha Lyonne, Martin Starr, Byron Bowers and Laura San Giacomo joined the cast of the film. In June 2018, it was announced FKA Twigs had joined the cast of the film.
Asked about how making a film based on his script affected his rehab, LaBeouf said:
"It is strange to fetishize your pain and make a product out of it and feel guilty about that. It felt very selfish. This whole thing felt very selfish. I never went into this thinking, 'Oh, I am going to fucking help people.' That wasn't my goal. I was falling apart."
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019. Shortly after, Amazon Studios acquired distribution rights to the film and eventually released it on November 8, 2019.
Honey Boy grossed $3 million in the United States and Canada, and $258,087 in other territories, for a total worldwide of 3.3 million, against a production budget of $3.5 million. The film made $301,075 from four theaters in its opening weekend, considered a "strong" start. It expanded to 17 theaters the following weekend, making $203,272.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 94% based on 211 reviews, and an average rating of 7.69/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Honey Boy serves as an act of cinematic therapy for its screenwriter and subject – one whose unique perspective should strike a chord in audiences from all backgrounds." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Honey Boy was included in the list of best movies of 2019 by Lindsey Bahr of Associated Press, where it was placed in the seventh position.
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