This movie has a lot going for it: big names like Evan Rachel Wood, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aubrey Plaza, Rupert Grint, Mads Mikkelsen, Melissa Leo. And also Shia LaBeouf. Okay, truth be told, it’s a lot of LaBeouf. Mostly LaBeouf. And I realize he’s not exactly anyone’s idea of Hollywood’s It kid right now.
What happened to Shia LaBeouf? Admit it – his eagerness and enthusiasm in his first Transformers performance was contagious. He was instantly a star, ranking #6 on The 25 Hottest Actors Under 25 and earning studios a very impressive $160 for every $1 paid to him. But as quickly as his star rose, so began his descent. The very next year he was arrested on a DUI at the scene of an accident where luckily the only injury was his own (he required extensive hand surgery which forced a pause in production of Transformers 2). And then: bar fights, drunkenness, badmouthing movies and costars, boasting about conquests that put other people’s relationships in jeopardy, headbutting strangers, chasing the homeless, making fans cry, live-tweeting LSD trips. He dropped out of a Broadway play starring Alec Baldwin and then trolled him from the front row during a performance. I mean, who else would even try to out-Baldwin a Baldwin? He got caught plagiarizing, then attempted to apologize for it by hiring a skywriter far away from where the victim lived. These were bad years, and there wasn’t a single person who didn’t distance themselves from him. Heck, even the Transformers franchise was handed over to Marky Mark, and Indiana Jones given back to a septuagenarian. But then came even worse years,the paper bag years. In an effort to insist he “wasn’t famous anymore”, he wore paper bags over his head to red carpet events and on talk shows. In an effort to reframe his erratic behaviour as “performance art”, he staged increasingly bizarre events – during one “show” he lived in an art gallery for 5 days during which people lined up to spend 1 hour alone in a room with him while he sat in perfect silence, often soaking the paper bag on his head with tears. He would later claim that a woman raped him during her hour and he did nothing to stop it in order to preserve the integrity of the piece. Then he live-streamed himself watching all 29 of his movies back to back in a Manhattan theatre (he cried then too). And just this February he spent 24 hours in an elevator. Because, duh, it’s art. Meanwhile, I’m wondering where the hell his mother is. This man is clearly suffering and Hollywood is not known for coming to anyone’s rescue. In fact, this tabloid culture in which we are living feeds off of young people’s breakdowns.
Shia, if you’re reading: I’m sorry you’re hurting. I can’t pretend to know what it does to a person’s head to have so much power and money and fame. You need a break, and we have a spare bedroom. I’m a therapist, and so are 3 of my 4 dogs. Come have a rest.
To the rest of you: Charlie Countryman is plagued, but not by Shia LaBeouf. He’s clearly giving it everything he’s got, but it’s not enough to save this mess. He plays a young, grieving guy who flies to Bucharest to shakes his blues but instead finds himself drawn to a woman with an intoxicating accent. She’s bad news, as evidenced by the many iterations of the film’s title – you may find it called Kill Charlie Countryman, or The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. Either way, you know she’s going to get him killed, but she’s beautiful, aloof, and dangerous, so how can he resist?
The director tries to be kinetic and offbeat but it’s overcooked and comes off more as emo. It’s like the director was pretty sure this is the only film he’d ever get his grubby little hands on, so he used up every trick in his bag, and his bag was a student backpack. Charlie Countryman is watchable, but it would be hard to mistake it as good.
Shia LaBeouf, on the other hand, is likely a good person going through a hard time. Looking at his rap sheet, it’s easy to mistake tragedy for comedy, but it’s clear his spiral is still trending downward and that he’s unable to save himself. The big sister in me just wants to give him a hug and a cookie and say “Shia, eneouf is eneouf.”