Friday, 31 January 2020

Alternate Best Actor 2019: Shia LaBeouf & Noah Jupe in Honey Boy

Shia LaBeouf and Noah Jupe did not receive an Oscar nominations, despite being nominated for Indie Spirit Awards, for portraying James Lort and Otis Lort respectively in Honey Boy.

Honey Boy is the therapeutic, seemingly tell all, thinly veiled depiction of Shia LaBeouf's troubled relationship with his father.

Threre are actually two concurrently running lines of the story, one being that of a Hollywood actor (Lucas Hedges) being forced into rehab after a drunk driving incident, that is fine but a relatively standard depiction of such a tale. What is far more interesting is the tale that provides the motivation for that framing device, featuring the man that wrote this story, and who this is about, despite the use of the name Lort, in LaBeouf. LaBeouf is an actor, who I'll admit I was not taken with for a long time. This as he had about four phases as a performer, quite a lot for a man who is only in his early 30's. He began as a more than decent child actor of whom many took notice. He then segued into leading pseudo adult roles, where it felt like Hollywood was forcing him upon us as a new star. This was rejected by many, myself included, and found his screen presence became rather tiresome in this period. He then segued again to a period that had less to do with film, and seemed more built around creating controversy for his performance art pieces or plagiarized artistic attempts. This was not a great period, though thankfully he eventually segued away again to what now seems to be his current period as trying to embrace... well just acting. Strangely enough this started at the tail end of that nonsense with his devoted work in Fury, but expanded as he began seeming to focus on the roles, rather than a whole lot of nonsense. The reasons for these rather extreme shifts however are perhaps revealed by himself here in one of the most personal projects one could imagine, as he not only wrote it about himself, but also focused on a  particularly harrowing aspect of his life.

We find this through the story of the boy Lort as the up and coming child actor. This with Noah Jupe as the young Lort, where he is sharing his hotel residence on a shoot with his father, played by LaBeouf playing his father in everything but name only. This in a way a curious sight in then playing against himself in the form of Noah Jupe. I'll admit LaBeouf was already in my good graces for his low key earnest work in The Peanut Butter Falcon, but here is a transformative turn here that is so honest to his character he is depicting. This in his thick, yet lived in accent, he instantly evokes a certain type of life with his James Lort. This sort of southern man defined by a life of some type of hardship. This is fittingly a great distance from Noah Jupe's portrayal of Otis at this age, which is as someone steeped within the hardship. His performance though works in contrast by having his basic setting being a sort of calm of a child trying to do his best compared to his father. LaBeouf's work honestly shouldn't work in some way through how extreme the character is. The thing is though LaBeouf does disappear entirely into the role and not just because of his large glasses and fading hairline. There is such an ease in the transformation that is incredible, and perhaps alluding to very much his firsthand knowledge of such a type of man, as there is nothing that feels put on in his work. LaBeouf's manner, from that accent, to his always slightly sloppy movements, and his poor posture, just are turned so natural in creating such a revealing portrait of an extreme, made normal by how genuine it feels.

LaBeouf being so convincing in his realization of James, against Jupe, who is equally genuine in his role, creates something very special in the film through their interactions. LaBeouf is fascinating here in that he manages to be magnetic, strangely in a way as I never felt he was in his traditional leading turn, in creating the public charm of James. LaBeouf manages to balance this certain sense of a southern style hospitality in his outgoing demeanor, that always borders on crude, but LaBeouf wields it in James as a true showman of another sort. A showman that LaBeouf is honestly pretty amazing in depicting these moments, as not disingenuous, as James does want to charm those he makes his bad jokes to, but within it there is this underlying desperation about it. A desperation not that the jokes are desperate, but rather this palatable need of the man to attempt to capture an audience. This plays so well against Jupe's work where we see the young man who gets the audience seemingly by being so gently charming to those around him. There's no desperation just a sort of joy towards performance of the child movie/tv star, against the rodeo clown that is James, who would've killed for that same adoration. That need is truly felt within every single one of these moments of LaBeouf's portrayal that creates such a piercing state, that makes it that even when James is being charming there is something unnerving within that.

This is as we quickly see that James isn't much of a father and here LaBeouf is brilliant in portraying the very off-putting abuse that Otis suffers at his hand. This is as LaBeouf avoids the easy tropes of a one note monster, or even the monster behind the face. There is a reprehensible ease that LaBeouf delivers to his random cruel words to his son. This with a sort of pompous attitude within each a purposeful put down . The ease of it, and the natural qualities of it make it particularly unnerving, since it is merely the state of James to be so. Jupe is heartbreaking in these moments because he is also so naturally attuned into each scene. This in portraying just the pain of the random insults into his face, that are these subtle bits of heartbreak in the boy as the jealous father lashes out at him. The cruelty is pervasive within LaBeouf's performance because of how human he makes it in every scene. This as early on as he demands to know about Otis's "big brother" who takes him to baseball games, LaBeouf brings again that desperation in the questions. It is cruel, but in each word he shows the vulnerability in the man in each word. His eyes swell with a disappointment in one's self to really not be a father, even as his words pester with such an intensity of manipulation. Jupe offers a moving counterpart, as even in the cruelty, his face is that of a boy hoping to please his father, and always quietly scared of him.

Honestly, I remain most impressed by LaBeouf's work because so much of it seemingly shouldn't work, and could've easily devolved into a lot of posturing, however he is so cued into the role, everything he does. This in his creating the sense of a man who basically is always within his own breakdown, the problem is, unlike his son of the future, the man is constantly breaking down just right in front of us. This is even as even when LaBeouf delivers these seemingly more amiable rambles, that he does so effortlessly by making them so genuine to basically a con man of sorts, there is still a sense as though he is about to fall apart. LaBeouf makes every word an attack, whether quietly or loudly, yet more than anything is incredible in making this such a mess of a man overflowing with negatives, that he funnels them in this most unfortunate form of an extroversion. This as even in brief scenes of his clown act, or trying to get a young woman to come hither through magic trick, it is as this act of strange agony even as supposed entertainment.  LaBeouf legitimately creates the sense of an unpredictability about the man. When he meets his "big brother" (Clifton Collins Jr), Labeouf's shifts on a dime are sublimely performed, as his initial false words of appreciation become more and more hostile. This in just slowly finding this aggressiveness that just reveals itself so naturally. As hateful as it is, it is just as much this act of man writhing in his own agony. Jupe is the perfect scene partner, and wholly heartbreaking. This as the horror of it is made all the more vivid, as you see how each act wears on the boy.

Jupe's work is terrific because he is true partner to LaBeouf, as he only is ever an honest boy put in a terrible situation. Take one particularly outstanding scene for both actors. This as Jupe as Otis relays messages of the failure of James's marriage through the phone, talking to his mother. Jupe is devastating in the scene because he depicts the harrowing nature as his face just wears the burden of his parents fighting essentially through him. This as LaBeouf is fantastic in delivering such a raw breakdown, that feels only ever real in showing he man's anger at really everything about his existence in lashing out at who should be his loved ones. We do see some comfort in each, away from each other. In the scenes where we see Otis seek solace with the same local girl James seemed to try to seduce, Jupe quite frankly makes them work. This as his performance, in every moment of it, is that of a boy looking for familial comfort. The situation itself theoretically scandalous, of the boy "sleeping" next to the young woman, but Jupe shows in each moment a boy just trying to find a basic comfort this father does not provide. This coincides with a scene of James, at an AA, meeting explaining his own screwed up childhood of abuse and hardship. LaBeouf is astonishing in this scene, this as he doesn't reveal some different James, rather he simply lays bare all that pain that is a constant in the man. here though it is not without anger, but actually a sense of reflection.

LaBeouf's eyes evoke so strongly the wounds of the pas unhealed, that have essentially broken this man. LaBeouf reveals the truth of the man, that is almost inspiring in the moment in its honesty, even though it only shows an awareness of his faults however still an inability not to give himself to them. This as we see both really get to their worst place between Otis and James, where James resorts to direct physical abuse. Jupe and LaBeouf make a distressing scene. This as each lashing out at each other, Otis verbally, and James physically is marked by a mutual sense of betrayal. In Jupe's eyes are piercing in a real sadness at the act of attacking his father for his failures compared to his success, while LaBeouf is searing in the ferocity of his reaction of man unable to cope with being what he is. What is so incredible, is that LaBeouf's work isn't without warmth, there are moments of a the signs of a better father, however it is so wound within such self-loathing and resentment, that it cannot reveal itself purely as a father's tenderness. One of their final scenes together, is so impressive in the direct truths both Jupe and LaBeouf are able to express in their characters. This in Jupe's disdain is the wear of years of abuse, fed up with his failure of a father, and this against LaBeouf's collapse in front of him, which manages to be moving, as the emotion is so sincere in this moment of admitting to himself his own disappointment as a father, in this scene of anguish. Jupe's work is remarkable in creating this vivid portrait of a mature boy, who more than anything would wish to be innocent. I will say though my take away from the film has to be LaBeouf's evocative turn of essentially his own personal demon, personified but also so powerfully humanized. Although his more recent efforts had already began to turn my perspective of him as actor around, this is a major step forward, in this daring, dedicated and downright unforgettable portrait of his own father.  
(Jupe)
(LaBeouf)

27 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Very happy with this.

Louis: You need to add Noah Jupe to the labels.

Luke Higham said...

Unlike what happened with 1987, It's great to see 2 leading turns from child actors get very positive reviews.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Would it be safe to say that LaBeouf is now your retroactive pick for the 2008 BAFTA Rising Star Award?

Also, your choices for that award from 2016 onwards?

Robert MacFarlane said...

So I watched Far From Home, and now I have a new least favorite MCU movie. Absolutely antithetical to everything I like about Spider-Man.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

OK, I underestimated LaBeouf. I have a feeling he might even make the top 5 now.

Calvin Law said...

Yeah they were both great though both 4.5’s for me for now. If you asked me when I started reading this blog about actors who’d get 5’s LaBeouf would’ve been right at the bottom. Great to see me proven wrong.

Michael McCarthy said...

Good for you, Shia. Jupe was good for sure but his work hasn’t stayed with me as much as I thought it would. LaBeouf has been right on the border of a five since I saw this film though, so I’m glad to see this.

Charles H said...

I didn't expect this high amount of praise for him. A rewatch will probably upgrade him to a 5 for me.

RatedRStar said...

I can easily see Shia as an Oscar nominee one day, he is still very young. Its proof that any actor can give a good performance, back in 2009 the majority hated actors like Shia and Robert Pattinson and now look at them.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: Did you see any other of the adaptations of Little Women, wondered if you had any thoughts on them?

Calvin Law said...

He is almost definitely going to get a nomination at some point. He has the redemption story angle, the talent, and he's definitely lining up a lot of promising roles for the future.

Mitchell Murray said...

It's especially disappointing for me to see where LaBeouf went after a lot of his earlier turns, but at the same time, it's also incredibly sad how he was treated, and the paths he was led down, in those formative years. As far as his film output goes, however, I'll admit he's been an inconsistent actor in my view, but rarely a downright terrible one. The nostalgic part of me still has a soft spot for "Holes", but as "Fury" demonstrated he's also capable of handling meaty dramatic material under the right direction.

Needless to say, "Honey Boy" is most definitely on my watch list if it wasn't already.

Luke Higham said...

Can't wait for MacKay's review next.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the scene in El Camino where Jesse calls his parents.

Also, what would you consider Robert Downey Jr's best outing as Iron-Man?

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I think it's Captain America: Civil War.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could you give your picks for all the Rising Star winners because some of them may have changed.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke & Bryan:

Based on perfect 20/20 hindsight.

2006: James McAvoy
2007: Cillian Murphy (Blunt is close however)
2008: Shia LaBeouf
2009: Michael Fassbender (Even with his recent streak)
2010: Carey Mulligan
2011: Tom Hardy (Though Stone is very close)
2012: Chris Hemsworth
2013: Alicia Vikander
2014: George MacKay
2015: Margot Robbie
2016: Taron Egerton (Tough one, as much as the potential of Egerton, Larson, Boyega are evident, all three of shown some difficulties within their breakout)
2017: Lucas Hedges
2018: Florence Pugh
2019: Jessie Buckley
2020: Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Most impressive overall output so far, though I am eager to see what else Dever, Lowden and Awkwafina can do.)

Robert:

Understandable. I really hate "heartless" spider-man, as him being a relatable teen/person is so fundamental to the character.

Tahmeed:

Civil War followed closely by the first Iron Man.

That scene is another moving moment for Paul's performance more than anything as he's able show how Jesse is really going through the emotions of calling his parents in the moment, even if it is slightly put on more as it is technically him playing the part in order to get inside the house.

Luke Higham said...

Surprised you didn't give Taylor-Joy the win for 2017.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I mean at this moment it is the high-points of Ben is Back/Boy Erased against Thoroughbreds/The VVitch, kind of a toss up. With the low points of Peaky Blinders/Three Billboards, where neither are atrocious, a toss up again. 1a/1b, really, so I guess we'll see where they go from here, as not much can be taken from Hedges's next projects, while Taylor-Joy's are promising (working with Wright) and potentially disastrous (New Mutants).

Bryan L. said...

Louis: I reckon Lakeith Stanfield is 1B for you with Buckley for that years award?

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

No, I like Stanfield a lot, but Buckley's an easy win for me.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could LaBeouf go up for Fury.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Jupe's performance in Wonder?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the direction and screenplay of King Kong 2005?

BRAZINTERMA said...

Louis and whoever is reading my comment
Has anyone there watched the Taiwanese "A Sun" (2019) directed by Mong-Hong Chung?
For those who have seen it, what is your cast assessment? Could any of the actors enter the 2019 lineup?

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Not out of the realm of possibility.

Anonymous:

Jupe - 3.5(It's a good performance, as he has the same naturalism as Tremblay and therefore is frankly a good actor to have around to compliment him. More so though Jupe impressively realizes one of the most interesting aspects of the film, which is the "best friend" who too bullies. Jupe naturally realizes this without overt villainy, but rather the ease of peer pressure to put down.)

Anonymous:

Well let's start with the screenplay first by the LOTR team, which too is adaptation of a work, however instead of simplifying a book, they're expanding upon the original, which is rather to the point. Well the major expansion of Ann Darrow makes sense, and showing her motivations is all well and good, and I mean that. The rest of the expansion though begins to feel more like attempting to force an epic, merely by having an epic cast without rationalizing this purpose. Expanding/changing Jack Driscoll really isn't needed, and doesn't add enough to the film. All the additional side characters seem superfluous because they don't do enough with them, but then take too much time with them. Jamie Bell's Jimmy and the First Mate in particular seem pointless, despite having so much time devoted to them. The same really to Kyle Chandler's leading man, who is frankly underused as a comic relief. It expands too often without purpose. This all keeping the plot basically the same, but just adding a whole lot of fat for the sake of an epic, however without the substance of one. The dialogue is also questionable as the team literally makes fun of the original's at some points, however overall takes upon the approach as though it is a 30's screwball comedy at times, or just a 30's film in general. So this again is an odd combination as it really doesn't modernize, and at the same time is less pure than the original.

Really thinking about Peter Jackson's direction here, makes me think he should've been a William Wyler type filmmaker, but desires to be a more overtly stylistic sort. The thing is what Jackson does do well is when he breaths life into traditional epic film making. The majesty of Kong, making Kong a relatable character, and the grand scope are all impressively realized. Jackson's vision in making his own epic, as he had in LOTR, is great. Where Jackson falters is when he attempts to be something he's not nearly at skilled at. The scene of spelling "Skull", the first native scenes, feel so over the top in Jackson's attempts at style, like frame cutting that is more obnoxious than effectively off-putting. The same in his comic scenes that he let's go so broad, like Ann meeting Jack or "Kong on Ice", that it feels ludicrous rather than amusing within the universe of the epic. There's a lot greatness within Jackson's direction of realize the grandeur of the tale, but his work is rather messy when it comes to everything else.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you seen Ready Or Not, Her Smell, The Dead Don't Die, Ophelia or Good Boys yet.