Shia LaBeouf's performance in American Honey proves that he's not the weirdo we all pegged him to be. Perhaps, it's the opposite — maybe it's his ability to completely surrender to his nomad, mag crew leader-cum-preacher, rat tail-wearing character that makes his role seem so believable. In any case, we are not here to talk about LaBeouf's acting chops. We are here to discuss how in the hell he dominated my psyche for two hours and 43 minutes. Because, people, Shia LaBeouf is hot in this movie.
There is a breed of man that manages to be both repulsive and intensely attractive. In the wild, this creature is known as the scumbag. Done right, the scumbag can makes you forget — temporarily, at least — that you are a smart, capable woman with no desire to deal with fucked-up man drama. This is called scumbag sexy. (See: Scott Disick, Justin Theroux, Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy, Don Draper in later seasons of Mad Men — you get the picture. Kesha, I am told, is perhaps the female equivalent of this phenomenon.) LaBeouf is scumbag sexy. I present you with Exhibit A:
My Shia LaBeouf sexual awakening started slowly at first: a creeping sensation (What is this feeling?) followed by a kernel of doubt (Those biceps, though.), followed by disgust (Everything about him screams body odor. What is wrong with you?), rebellion (SEX.) and eventually, utter abandon. (Damn.) Let’s be clear — LaBeouf shouldn’t be hot in this movie. He spends most of it sporting a pair of ridiculous suspenders, a drab sleeveless shirt, and pocket protector. He appears to be in a perpetual sweaty state. He has a rat tail.
Maybe it’s his confident-yet-wounded-swagger or the explosive chemistry he shares with co-star and love interest Sasha Lane. (He sends her looks so smoldering that I'm amazed the screen didn't start crackling.) Perhaps it’s the old fascination with bad boys, rearing its "James Dean in a leather jacket" head. All I know is that by the end of Andrea Arnold's truly stunning film, I was having disturbingly sexy thoughts about someone who used to play Louis Stevens. Pushing aside my own disgust, there is a valid query here: Where did this filthy, smoldering, electric, macho Shia come from? There were some hints along the way. He was a charming lead in Holes. There was a glimmer of promise in Transformers and Disturbia. To be honest, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was so bad that I couldn’t have processed any physical attraction had I even wanted to.
But 2014 found Shia on the Berlin red carpet for Nymphomaniac with a paper bag on his head. The then-27-year-old quickly went from “promising” to “strange” and was relegated to has-been celebrity purgatory. Suddenly, the boy who befriended Optimus Prime was "weird" and no longer mainstream. Almost overnight, LaBeouf went from basic to scumbag — from affable leading(ish) man to wild, unpredictable bad boy. In American Honey, this new odd, gritty LeBoeuf stages his comeback. I love it. I'm not sure if my self-respect will ever recover.