Honey Boy (2019)

honey-boy

Food: I got to enjoy a whiskey tasting at Macallan Manor in downtown Manhattan. First, we get to taste the whiskey, while getting to smell the aromas, taste dried flavors of vanilla, oak, and citrus to bring out the taste. Next, we enter another room where we have the opportunity to blind taste and guess which whiskey is which, while getting a presentation about the various types of barrels that were used. The entire experience was elaborate and well-done. It ended with live music and a cocktail party. I recommend to anyone with an appreciation for whiskey.

Film: “Honey Boy” is intensely personal, stripping bare Labeouf’s hardened exterior and letting the rawness of his tumultuous relationship with his father rest on-screen, dissected, digested, and delivered with incredibly nuanced performances by Lucas Hedges, as Otis, Shia Labeouf as Otis’ father, James Lort (played by Labeouf himself), and, revelatory Noah Jupe, as young Otis.

Shia Labeouf turned his court ordered therapy into a script. When asked to write about what angered him the most, he penned a biopic about his early life being raised by his intense childhood with his addict father.

The metaphorical curtain opens on this film with a shot of Hedges staring at the camera point-blank, and screams a few lines of script before being yanked on a pulley into the air in the midst of a simulated explosion. He is brought down on a harness, and wanders through set, and the audience follows behind with a tracking shot. Suddenly, we are watching a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, rapidly appearing like firecrackers, giving us a sense of the chaotic nature of this characters life at the moment, which led to an aggravated arrest, followed by rehab.

Afterwards, we are transported back in time by about a decade. Similarly to the opening sequence, we now see a young Otis, Jupe, staring at us, waiting to get a pie in the face and, again, is pulleyed through the air on a harness, before he makes his way through the set. We track him from behind, and the redundancy effectively communicates that he has been doing this for a long time.

Young Otis finds his father, shmoozing an uninterested woman on set, sharing with her information about chicken dung (he performs circus tricks with his pet chicken, “Henrietta La Fowl”). The secondhand embarrassment of watching this interaction nearly seeps through the screen. James is rambling and eccentric. He is also abrupt and ill-tempered especially towards Otis. With long hair pouring from a balding scalp, and round rimmed specks, Labeouf is almost unrecognizable. Much of this father-son relationship is felt through concise, but focused interactions. They are brief snapshots that refuse to go away, and inform how Otis perceives himself and the world around him.

The two reside together in a run-down motel room with a community of neighbors, a junkyard and a pool. In close quarters, their relationship is loving, but tense. Otis cannot even use the restroom without being met with aggravated criticism. The situation becomes clear: Otis is a successful and recognizable child actor, and his father has a criminal record (sex offender), and lives off Otis’ paychecks. He reminds Otis consistently that he does this because of his unfaltering belief in his sons future, and that his mother’s choice to work is an example of her lack of support. She signed Otis up for a mentor through the Big Brother program – to James’s chagrin.

The master-stroke of “Honey Boy” is found in the intimacy of the writing. Each fleeting conversation seems to carry so much depth, as it is clear that every word has haunted our lead for the majority of his most formative years, and have helped establish his unstable foundation into adulthood. Shia Labeouf and director, Alma Ha’rel, have had a delightful artistic partnership for several years – creating an absolutely flawless music video for the Icelandic band Sigur Ros and a documentary called “LoveTrue.” This is another gorgeous piece of cinema. One scene in the film features the song “Glimpses” by Alexander Ebert, and it is chillingly beautiful. The whole film is really magnificent and feels close to the heart.

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