A lot of people have been talking about Shia Labeouf lately. From the plagiarism antics for his Howard Cantour.com short film, to his ‘I’m not famous anymore’ bag on his head at Berlin Festival’s Nymphomaniac opening, the actor is the bread and butter of pop-culture journalism. Much more than when he was A-listing it with Michael Bay’s Transformers, and a lot more than when he was the even Louis Steven.
Some might argue against this association with his low brow commercial career past, the point being that he is rejecting his celebrity persona. However, my main point is that he fits perfectly into the narrative of child-star–turned-rebel. While working with Lars von Trier is a notoriously transformative process, I doubt that it was the Danish director’s aura alone that explains LaBeouf’s behavior.
I had noticed The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman after a Hannibal series tour de force, and a more than delightful viewing of The Hunt, after which I was convinced that Mads Mikkelsen is incapable of being anything other than an amazing actor in any of his roles; a Norwegian Daniel Day Lewis if you will. With the conjunction of LaBeouf’s slightly baffling coverage, I decided to watch the film and perhaps notice the root of his anxiety and troubles in an indie production, where he, as an artist, could theoretically express himself more freely as a lead actor in a character driven movie.
Given his recent performance piece in LA, called #iamsorry, where a crowd of mainly TMZ drawn fans lined up to sit in front of him for a few minutes as he supposedly apologized, I think I might extend the barrier of his work from the physical to the virtual, and propose a few things Shia Labeouf should be sorry about after watching the film.
1. He should be sorry for his acting inconsistency. While Charlie Countryman switches from grieving son to enamoured puppy to noir detective, the audience registers exactly zero changes in his character, and that is perhaps the most frustrating aspect about the film.
2. He should be sorry for rehashing all rom-com clichés that died once Jude Apatow got a bit serious about writing. From tired speeches about love, to single guitar cord soundtrack, the film excels at offering no original line of dialogue or film-making.
3. Shia should say sorry that he made a big deal about taking acid before filming a scene where Charlie Countryman is on LSD, only for the audience to see a minute’s worth of unconvincing moaning. Watch Enter the Void and take some acting lessons; perhaps then you can start comparing yourself to Sean Penn.
4. He should apologize for missing the opportunity to portray a vibrant Eastern European capital with anything other than soviet police state/interwar nostalgia stereotypes, and Eurotrip references.
5. As a personal note, I’d personally want LaBeouf to apologize for the worst English speaker trying to say something in Romanian scene that, as a Romanian abroad, I have ever seen.
I’d give an actual review of the film, but I see no use in pointing out flaws in paragraph form. Even Mikkelsen disappoints, and he’s the best thing to come out of the whole movie.
In the end, we might end up posing some serious questions about what celebrity culture does to the young stars that spend most of their childhood in the rainbow coloured spotlight of the Disney channel. When Selena Gomez stars in the most MTV-generation damning movie of all, directed by the all time American myth-destroyer Harmony Korine, and Miley Cyrus keeps wiping her make-up from all the tongue showing and pretend fornication acts, Shia LaBeouf actions seem more-so part of a trend, rather than a personal meltdown.
This is defined by a game of opposites that all these stars play, based on the idea that there can be no linearity between two stages in a career, no slow incursion into quality film-making or serious song-writing. Perhaps when you have so many Twitter followers telling you that you are perfect just the way you are, moving from one to another might gain tragic proportions in your mind. Maybe they were never supposed to be lauded as much to begin with, or maybe they just aren’t cut for real work. Whether we really want to or not, we will be watching closely.
by Paul Dunca
Paul Dunca is a freelance saboteur looking for a change of pace. He writes reviews and opinion pieces to keep appearances and can be reached at various wishing wells around London.