Tag Archives: Noah Jupe

TIFF19: Honey Boy

Oh man. It’s already been more than a week and in many ways I’m still digesting this.

Honey Boy is an autobiographical movie that Shia LaBeouf wrote. Deep breaths.

Now we know a couple of things about Shia LaBeouf: he has suffered a pretty lengthy and public meltdown, and he has continued to put out some pretty worthy performances, albeit in smaller vehicles (American Honey and The Peanut Butter Falcon recently). In a review for Charlie Countryman, I attempted to parse the nature of his problems and his pain, but of course from the outside, you can only guess, and wish him well (or not). But Shia is at that point in his healing where he is letting us in. He is performing an exorcism here. The ghosts in his closet have been let loose – but will they haunt him less?

“Selfishly,” he told us, “I made this movie for 2 people: me, and my dad.” Let’s unpack that a bit.

First, you need to know that in this movie he wrote, Shia plays his father. His own father. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges play young Shia and older Shia, though the character goes by Otis in the film. What does it mean that he’s written this painfully intimate autobiographical film, but called his character by another name?

Shia’s father James was (is) an addict, an ex-con, abusive to both Shia and his mother. And yet when we meet young Otis, who is hard at work on the set of a show not unlike Even Stevens, he is living in a dingy motel with his dad. His dad is not just acting as a parental guardian, but as a paid one. James doesn’t work. He takes money from his kid. Which doesn’t stop him from neglecting the son he’s being paid handsomely to watch, or from hitting the child who is technically his boss.

This makes for a complicated relationship and a complicated childhood. And though Otis’s mother is seldom heard from , you do have to wonder – if it’s dad who has custody, just how bad is mom?

So you start to realize that this little kid has no parents. Or, actually, that he’d be better off without the ones he does have. But what he does have is a full-time job and more money than most adults. But he’s also got family obligations and staff who are also relatives but virtually no one telling him how to navigate these complex situations. So by the time Noah Jupe magically transforms into Lucas Hedges, Otis has PTSD and his own struggles with addiction and no idea how to take time out from his busy career and the pressures of Hollywood to deal with them. Until a court gives him very explicit directions to do so (and thank goodness).

But maybe his best therapy has been writing this screenplay. Clearly troubled after the TIFF premiere of Honey Boy, Shia is quick to reassure us that he’s happy to be here with us, but he’s quiet, introspective, quick to deflect to his costars and the director he so admires, Alma Har’el. As his struggles have become increasingly public and undeniable, he is coping with the tools he has available: creatively. But will his creation be his catharsis? And is any of this interesting or entertaining to those of us who have to personal stake in his recovery?

Resoundingly: yes. The absolute best bits are between young Otis (Jupe) and his father (LaBeouf). Mostly stuck in a crappy motel room, the anger between them is never at less than an aggressive simmer, and it’s ALWAYS on the verge of boiling over. Even the quiet is not to be trusted. The tension is awful and soon we too are responding like an abused kid, ready to flinch at the least provocation. If you come from a conflict-filled background yourself, you won’t fail to identify the triggers. Be gentle with yourself.

Honey Boy is a moving, emotional movie-going experience. I also hope it brought a certain amount of closure to a young man still wrestling with his demons.

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The Titan

30 years from now, the earth and its population are collapsing because we’ve used up all the resources and the habitable areas are diminishing because of the effects of global warming. As humans so often do in science fiction, and in true life non fiction, instead of fixing it, we’ve left it too late and aim to abandon it, looking to the stars for relief.

In this case, we’ve got our sights set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Only instead of terraforming it, we’re terraforming ourselves. Or rather: an ambitious doctor is leading a military experiment to genetically enhance humans to make them more suitable for Titan’s harsh living.

Joel (Sam Worthington) is one of the chosen few, so he and his family, including wife Abi MV5BYmZlMGExOTgtNDg0Yy00ZjY0LThiY2YtZjhjM2Y3NzMyZGE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_(Taylor Schilling) and son Lucas (Noah Jupe), move to the military base where he and his fellow soon-to-be-super-humans will undergo the medical procedures and training necessary to get them into Titan shape. Professor Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson) fearlessly leads them into battle, but you can probably guess that this review doesn’t end with “and then they all lived happily ever after…on Saturn.”

Of course not. Because messing around with the human genome, with evolution itself, is always, always, ALWAYS a cautionary tale. What normally takes millions of years should never be rushed through in a couple of days. It’s weird that scientists, the very people who patiently explained evolution to us, seem not to have internalized that lesson. So poor Joel is subjected to way more than he bargained for, and yeah it has some pretty scary repercussions for his family, but if you think about it, also for the whole of humanity.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem as though anyone in the film has really thought about it. There’s a really interesting premise but the film fails in its identity. It doesn’t take enough risks, or ask the brave questions. And Sam Worthington is the blandest, most unremarkable actor ever – so much so that Sean wondered if he was possibly watching Joel Edgerton, who is the guy Sean is specifically blind to. But neither Worthington nor Schilling (dyed brunette, so she’s more believable as a doctor) are charming enough make us give a damn. Just about the only worthy thing in the whole movie is its location – beautiful Gran Canaria, Spain, which will make for a lovely holiday destination, and deserves to host nervier speculation on its picturesque island.

SXSW: A Quiet Place

A family tiptoes barefoot through a deserted city, collecting food and medical supplies before their long walk back home to the family farm. The daughter is deaf but the whole family communicates silently. It is clear that not one sound must be made, not a single sound, even if it is not yet clear why that would be.

In the great style of horror movies, we know soon enough: beasts, monsters or aliens, whatever you call them, they hunt by sound. You’re safe as long as you’re silent – but who can remain truly silent, and for how long? In the year or so since the attacks started MV5BNGRhMWRhNzEtOGM2NC00MGNjLWE2ZTEtMzE0NDk1ZmU5YmYwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQ0MDUyMzg@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_happening, it’s clear this family was quicker than most to adapt. They appear to be among the only survivors. But even if you can manage to never speak, to never laugh – can you also manage to never knock over a glass of water? To never sneeze? And what about the poor mother, visibly nearing the end of a pregnancy. Can she labour in silence, and what about the newborn – won’t his first act be to cry? In fact, this movie keeps you so on edge I despaired as the mother doled out fish and veggies for dinner. Were the vegetables suitably soft? A particularly crisp cucumber could spell certain death.

You likely heard me bellyaching about having to survive a horror movie for SXSW’s opening night film, but I wanted to do it for Emily Blunt, and her husband\director, John Krasinski. Not because I owe it to them personally, but because neither is known for genre work, so if they’ve made an exception for this, it must be exceptional.

And actually, it is. First because of the silence. There are different kinds of quiet and we experience dozens of them during A Quiet Place. The pregnant silence, the expectant silence, the easy quiet, the calm quiet, the hair-raising, heart-beat elevating, sweat on the backs of your knees silences. And then there’s the daughter’s silence, true silence, the kind that envelops you, comforts you, terrifies you. This is the movie that should be up for Oscars in sound editing next year but probably won’t be.

Second, because of the acting. Emily Blunt is easily phenomenal. Mom characters tend to get short shrift in horror movies but in this case, Blunt gives us patience and strength, real suffering and heartache, an iron will and a tender heart. The kid actors are top-notch too – in fact you’ve already heard me rave about them, Millicent Simmonds in Wonderstruck, and Noah Jupe in Suburbicon. John Krasinski is the first to admit that he learned a lot working alongside these professionals and he fills the father’s shoes nicely.

But this movie is also remarkable for its themes that extend way beyond the genre. At its heart, it’s really about a family who is trying to prepare its children to fend for themselves in the big, bad world. Like any family. Only hopefully your children won’t be facing any literal face-eating monsters. But of course you’re afraid for them, afraid that they’ll encounter something you haven’t prepared them for, and that you won’t be there when they need you. As director, Krasinski makes us care for this family, while at the same time making it feel like it could be mine or yours.