Honey Boy

Critics Consensus

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.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 205

92%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 560
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Movie Info

From a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, based on his own experiences, award-winning filmmaker Alma Har'el brings to life a young actor's stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father through cinema and dreams. Fictionalizing his childhood ascent to stardom, and subsequent adult crash-landing into rehab and recovery, Har'el casts Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges as Otis Lort, navigating different stages in a frenetic career. LaBeouf takes on the daring and therapeutic challenge of playing a version of his own father, an ex-rodeo clown and a felon. Artist and musician FKA twigs makes her feature acting debut, playing neighbor and kindred spirit to the younger Otis in their garden-court motel home. Har'el's feature narrative debut is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between filmmaker and subject, exploring art as therapy and imagination as hope.

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Critic Reviews for Honey Boy

All Critics (205) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (192) | Rotten (13)

Audience Reviews for Honey Boy

  • Jan 25, 2020
    I'll admit that I've had my problems with Shia LaBeouf in the past (due in no small part to the fact I can never remember how to spell his last name) especially because I think he's an annoying actor who takes annoying roles. Evidently, even Shia has had problems with Shia LaBeouf, and HONEY BOY is one of the ways he's gone about fixing those problems. The film is an autobiographical depiction of he and his father's business dynamic during LaBeouf's fledgling years as a child actor. He employed his father (played by LaBeouf) a recovering alcoholic and former rodeo clown, as his handler while living on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The movie jumps between his younger years (played by Noah Jupe) with his father then to his adult years (played by Lucas Hedges) when he has fallen into a lifestyle of alcoholism as well and entered rehab after a legal incident. The film is unflinching in portraying the emotional hardships and grey areas that the nagging circumstances of child stardom drive the boy and his father into. The power dynamic of fatherhood is nearly inverted while the daunting realities of substance abuse pervade their lineage and create seemingly insurmountable psychological barriers between them. These become catalysts for a metatextual rumination on how even our most authentic behaviors can be cathar-cissistic psychotherapy or menial performance art, learned or inherited by the tragedies and trauma that sculpt our personalities. There's a little something here for everybody, and it's no great stretch to call the film therapeutic.
    Steve L Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2019
    Honey Boy may be one of the most fascinating movies before you even watch a single second. It's begging for an intensely ambitious psychological analysis as Shia LaBeouf lays bare his soul in an act of art as therapeutic device. He wrote the screenplay of a very autobiographical tale of a young child actor (nick-named "Honey Boy" by his father) hitting new levels of fame and his abrasive, abusive, and very controlling father, an alcoholic entertainer that relishes his son's growing success and also resents his accomplishments. That alone would have made Honey Boy an interesting film experience, but LaBeouf goes the extra mile, as he does, and he literally plays the father character, putting him in the position of bringing to life the hurtful authority figure and thinking from his perspective. It makes every moment LaBeouf is onscreen deeply fascinating and deserving of a deep dive to unpack the layers and personal meaning for the man. LaBeouf is also startling and terrific as the self-destructive and self-determined father, a man who finds slights in the slightest but can also be very encouraging of his son's dreams. Seriously, every moment he is onscreen is suffused with layer sof artistic meaning for what it represents in the story, its relationship to LaBeouf the person, and what LaBeouf the son is discovering playing his father. It becomes a cathartic exercise that also could prove to be literal empathy. The problem with Honey Boy is that it feels more like that dramatic exercise than an actual story; the secondary storyline with the adult protagonist, played by Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), hardly provides much. He's going through rehab and dealing with his unresolved feelings and addictions, but it's more a framing device than a worthwhile contrast to provide helpful details. The movie would just have been fine without it. However, there isn't really a development of a plot as there is a general repetition of the relationship, namely the complicated and fractious father/son relationship. We spend a lot of time at this motel. We spend a lot of time with father speaking to son. I think a clear majority of the lines are spoken by LaBeouf. It's always fascinating, with the exception of a misfire of a young romance that seems to float by more on yearning, but after a while I started to notice it felt like we were getting more of the same. We weren't generating new insights into the characters and how they might change. Is this movie an act of forgiving his father or understanding him? I don't know, but I'd happily debate Honey Boy with a pal over a beer for the next hour. It's an inherently intriguing movie loaded with subtext that has its own subtext, a touch of the surreal, and powerful acting. It can also feel like more of the same after the first hour. It's a movie you need to see but it's ultimately more LaBeouf opening up his therapy role-play than it is a fully-formed movie. Nate's Grade: B
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Dec 01, 2019
    An imperfect but ultimately moving film, Honey Boy stands heavily on the shoulders of Shia LaBeouf's Oscar-worthy performance as his own father — one of the most remarkable turns so far this year. While it does not soar to groundbreaking heights, this intimate, and at times strange film dances close to cinematic brilliance, particularly in its beautiful finale.
    Matthew S Super Reviewer

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