HONEY BOY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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In Honey Boy, Shia LeBeouf takes ownership of his own screwed-up childhood back when he starred on a Disney Channel series and splashes it on the big screen in a form of performance therapy. This biographical shrink session, based on a script he wrote as part of his rehab, is a far cry from his Transformers sci-fi blockbusters that get a skewering in the opening moments. On top of that, he makes matters even more interesting by playing his own shiftless, unstable and self-absorbed abusive father – probably the most honest acting he will ever achieve as he attempts to shoo away the demons that haunt him.

It might sound self-indulgent, but this is a rather riveting and moving portrait of what happens too often to child stars, thanks to the two profoundly talented actors who play LeBeouf — whose alter-ego is called Otis Lort — at age 12 and in his 20s. Noah Jupe (Wonder, A Quiet Place, the upcoming Ford v Ferrari) is quite a find as he manages to deal with some rather mature situations that faced LaBeouf as a kid living with his irresponsible, violence-prone father in a sleazy motel that at times recalls moments from The Florida Project. And there no need for an introduction to the terrific Lucas Hedges, Oscar-nominated for Manchester by the Sea, who must undergo rehab after crashing a car and getting into a drunken altercation with the police. Director Alma Har’el isn’t afraid of letting what unfolds get a bit messy, but she handles the two timelines well enough while avoiding confusion as Otis’ past and present intertwine.

Bravo to LeBeouf being brave enough to dig deep both in his acting and his writing while inviting the public to participate in his healing process.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Honey Boy is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for November 8, 2019

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.