Tag Archives: alcoholism

HONEY BOY is Shia Lebouf’s love letter to… Shia Lebouf.

Let me start by saying, the promos are misleading. The pie in the face imagery seems like something pulled off of some of the shots of Booksmart, and while I didn’t take issue with that, nothing could have prepared me for the untenable bag of insufferable cruelty masking as a cohesive narration that Shia LeBouf, an actor who at one point I thought had great potential, unleashes on his audience. This is something that tends to occasionally pop up in independent cinema: among the clever new entries and occasional borefest man the 1,000 coming of age stories there is one that is none of them. It’s about pain, and anguish, and the horror of surviving it, and while I don’t mind a good story being told, once in a while we get something so painful one feels almost dirty after the credits roll.

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I don’t want to eviscerate the movie because it seems to, at least in concept, to have been born from Shia LeBouf’s own painful story of growing up basically parentless while he worked as a child actor. A lot of actors have had horror-parents that pushed their kids to the utmost limit while cashing in on their fame and then shoving their acts of theft down their terrified kids’ throats with the logical explanation that if it wasn’t for them, the monster parents, those kids wouldn’t even be alive.

And that’s a sorry, unforgivable situation, one that I struggle with because abuse is abuse no matter how you color it. Once kids are subjected to any level of abuse, it will always be an uphill battle to escape that nightmare and hopefully emerge intact by virtue of spiritual fortitude at the end of the tunnel. Note that I say the word hopefully, because more often than not, the scars remain, and the child now becomes just as bad as the abuser, or repeats a cycle by marrying into it, or, as in Shia LeBouf’s case and as acted by Lucas Hedges in a performance and role that should have been expanded more on, acting out. That, in short, is just pain begging for attention and unable to express itself other than acts of mindless rage,.

The movie focuses on LeBouf’s alter-ego Otis (Noah Jupe as a child; Hedges as a young adult) and his often contentious relationship with his walking train-wreck father (Shia LeBouf). As an adult, Otis finds himself coming out of a violent altercation with the police and having to go into therapy to potentially remedy his situation. HIs therapist (Laura San Giacomo) suggests Otis revisit the past (like most therapists always do; find the source of the pain and then through immersion, get past it). We flash back to when Otis was a 12 year old at the mercy of his deadbeat father who believes himself to have been a lost prodigy of sorts and is not above stealing Otis’ earnings, or upheaving the boy’s life to serve his needs. Otis starts a tentative relation with an older woman he calls Shy Girl (FKA Twigs), which does not go over well with Otis’ father (or let’s say, Otis’ father’s unbelievably massive ego).

Undeterred, Otis attempts on more than one occasion to understand the sordidness of his life and in all builds up to a boil when he confronts his monster-father. That does not go down well, and Otis is left, again, destitute and helplessly codependent on his father.

The worse part of Honey Boy is that, even though it is autobiographical, it makes no attempt to resolve this untenable situation between father and son, and while the indie crowd might have applauded it for not going into easy resolutions, at one point one has to wonder, who did Shia LeBouf make such a horrible movie for? It brought me back to another, equally repulsive movie I saw years ago by Asia Argento, The Heart if Deceitful Above All Things, itself based on JT Leroy’s (Laura Albert’s) novel of the same name. That one was even crueler. Honey Boy serves as neither great cinema nor story telling; the characters flit in and out without any narrative purpose and we get only Shia LeBouf letting his father off the hook at the end (this is not a spoiler) and Otis in limbo. You can watch this for an experiment in how much torture you can stand. I just wouldn’t recommend it if I had any say in it.


3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)



Much like the movie’s poster, which features a woman inside a bright red inkblot, Krisha is a wound about to be opened by forces she can’t control.

Invited to her sister Robyn’s Thanksgiving party, we see Krisha arrive and slowly make her way into the large family house, a place she’s clearly uncomfortable with from the word go. The meeting between this estranged character and her extended family goes with bouts of pleasant awkwardness, as they exchange hellos, short talk with that raised tone of politeness, show her around the house, the room she’ll be occupying where she meets one of the family dog, and so on, and so on. It’s a long sequence where Krisha, our main character, is seen in the edges of the frame, always, mute, a spectator in a party she may not revel in but has come to anyway, observing but vaguely lost as the hustle and bustle circles around her, restless.

Once these exchanges are over and Robyn is off to go fetch her mother, leaving Krisha with the sole task of overseeing the turkey, things start to unravel only slightly. Trey Edward Shults keeps the camera in almost constant movement while at the same time he plays some discordant music in the background that slowly begins to mirror Krisha’s own psyche (if telegraphing it a little too loudly). Interspersed in between scenes where she’s alone in the house (as other guests are huddled in their own corners, self-involved in television or small talk) are scenes with Krisha and her brother in law who seems to have been given the best lines in the picture and chews on them with gusto as he moves a conversation topic from having to tolerate his wife’s penchant for dogs (12 of them) to the topic of Krisha herself.

Which is something Krisha does not wish to share with him and thus with the movie goer. When that conversation ends, somehow, Krisha starts to progressively unravel. Moving around the house she becomes privy to a private conversation, but that’s not what interests her: we’ll come to know what it is, soon enough as she opens and closes cabinets with the stealth of a burglar.

Without disclosing what happens, it’s safe to say that Krisha morphs into the gaping wound it was always bound to be once she in desperation locks herself in the bathroom and does something unthinkable after meeting her mother, who is senile, and seeing how shut out she is from her family, especially her son. While the scene that unravels is extremely tense, it doesn’t, even then, complete the picture and leaves too many unanswered questions. All you manage to get from the movie is that the woman is clearly a walking disaster and that perhaps her sister is better off in shutting all forms of communication from there on. Other than that, this is a pretty stylish picture, with shots that draw you into the story, but leave you no closer to solving the riddle Krisha is. Where Krisha suffers the most I believe is in its dialog: too much reeks of indie dialog spoken on the improv, and how many times has one heard the “I’m just trying to find myself” in pictures like these?

Too many. Even so, Krisha is a striking debut from a young director who knows his way around setting a mood and enhancing visual suspense with even mundane elements and cutting in between time frames to present a final, broken yet intact whole.