Actor Shia LaBeouf supposedly wrote this while in rehab, and the semi-autobiographical story shows you what it was like for him to be a child star with his abusive father managing his career. At one point during the middle of the movie I asked my wife if it makes her feel bad for LaBeouf and understand why he acted so nuts all these years. She immediately said, “Oh yeah, without a doubt.”
I responded, “For me, it makes me feel bad for his childhood, but I hardly think it excuses all of it.”
And truth be told, it may have been cathartic for him to write this, but it doesn’t make for the most pleasant experience for the filmgoer. I think of times I’ve seen an abusive father on screen. Two that come to mind are in The Great Santini (Robert Duvall with the basketball into Michael O’Keefe’s back) and in This Boy’s Life (Robert De Niro shoving an empty orange juice container in Leonardo DiCaprio’s face). They worked because the movie wasn’t just non-stop verbal and physical abuse. Characters had a bit of an arc. In this movie, it’s just a series of flashbacks, as Otis (the always amazing Lucas Hedges) is in rehab talking to a therapist (Laura San Giacomo, who I wish would do more movies and less TV). In the flashbacks, Otis is played by Noah Jupe, who I think had a better life in A Quiet Place (and in that, he was eaten by a monster early on).
The abusive dad is played by Shia LaBeouf. He has a few stand-out scenes. One of those is when he meets with the “Big Brother” Otis has (played by underused actor Clifton Collins Jr.). You’re on the edge of your seat watching that scene unfold, knowing that the father is stewing underneath, as he asks innocent questions of Tom.
Father and son live in a cheap motel, which is frequented by prostitutes. Otis becomes friendly with a stripper (FKA Twigs). The father of course, gets into fights with the people there, too.
He also resents the success his son has, that he wanted for himself. He’s a former Vietnam Vet and rodeo clown, who tells lame (and often racist) jokes. He’s disruptive on the sets, whether that’s because he’s bugging female crew members for phone numbers or stopping his son in the middle of a scene. Sometimes he doesn’t even show up to pick his kid up after shooting.
There were a handful of interesting scenes. There were a few comedic moments. In one scene, a group of girls giggles when they recognize the young star. The dad talks about how he wishes he were famous so he couldn’t just get prostitutes, but “quality women like Dolly Parton.” When the boy laughs at that, dad snaps back with “Dolly Parton has her sh** together! She has her own theme park. You don’t have a theme park.”
Because the movie deals with addiction, I’ll forgive it for the barf scene. But, it has brought the stat up to 96.3% of all movies having a throw up scene.
Over all, the film just wasn’t exciting enough and lacked drama. While therapeutic for LaBeouf to make, it’s not my idea of entertainment. My wife disagreed. She felt it was dark, but brave of LaBeouf to do. She said, “I really liked it. I’d give it 4 stars.”
I can only give it 2 stars out of 5.
It’s currently playing at the Hillcrest Landmark and Reading Town Square.