Honey Boy Review: Shia LaBeouf Interrogates Even Stevens Past in Bracing Drama

TVGuide.com | 9/16/2019 | Oliver Whitney
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Following the annual film festival gauntlet through Telluride, Venice, and Toronto, awards season is already in full bloom. But this year has a different feel: streaming platforms are ascendant. The success of Roma at the 2019 Academy Awards has become a feature, not a bug for the film industry; Netflix has a host of major contenders rolling out over the remainder of the year. Amazon, too, will release a handful of titles to its platform, hoping to capitalize on its past success with films like Manchester by the Sea and The Big Sick. Will we look back on 2019 as the year awards season officially embraced the theatrical disrupters? That's the guess here at TV Guide, which is why we'll be providing reviews for the year's biggest streaming movies throughout awards season.

One of the most fascinating things about Honey Boy is that it doesn't feel like a film explicitly about Shia LaBeouf and his troubled past. While LaBeouf, making his screenwriting debut, based the film on his traumatic childhood and experience in rehab and also plays a version of his own father, Honey Boy refreshingly lacks egotism. Watching it, you know that Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place, Ford v Ferrari) getting pied in the face while wearing a Hawaiian shirt is a reference to Even Stevens; similarly, Lucas Hedges being ziplined across a blockbuster set, mid-explosion, is meant to evoke the Transformers franchise. And yet as confessional of a film as it may be, there's a notable distance between LaBeouf's on-screen presence and the material, and Honey Boy doesn't come across as a biopic about the former child star's life. Instead, director Alma Har'el uses LaBeouf's story to give us a sensitive portrait of generational trauma, PTSD, and the pained and revelatory process of reflecting on the abusive relationships that...
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