Hi, my name is Rachel Handler and I’m a Shia LaBeouf apologist. Loving Shia LaBeouf is probably the most controversial thing I've ever done, except for the time I kidnapped Shia LaBeouf. I’ve loved Shia—his bedraggled mane, his puppy-dog eyes, his penchant for rampant plagiarism—ever since his auspicious leading-man debut as Louis Stevens, the mischievous, perpetually hoarse youth on Disney Channel’s Even Stevens.
I maintain that Shia has never been better than as Louis Stevens. Shia was born for the role of Louis Stevens, a role that showcased his natural charm, raw comedic talent, and deep vulnerability. It was the role of Louis Stevens that turned me into a lifelong Shia defender, a title that means I can never be president or enter a Walgreens again. Everybody’s all “let’s reboot Full House” and “let’s reboot The Muppets” and “let’s reboot our lives can we just all be children again please somebody help us,” but I really think if we’re rebooting anything, we need to be rebooting Even Stevens, with Shia in the role of young Louis Stevens.
I continued to love Shia as he sweated gratuitously in Holes, foisted several Transformers movies upon us, played a person actually named Mutt Williams in the fourth Indiana Jones movie, and ate rugelach with a fork in Nymphomaniac. I even continued to love (but quietly shake my head in shame at) Shia as he went down a very un-Louis Stevens-y path, a path that would later be trodden and pissed on by Justin Bieber. There were brawls in bars and knife fights over his mom (?). There was “criminal trespassing” at Walgreens. There was his penis in a Sigur Ros video. (This is fine, though.) There was the feud with Alec Baldwin during rehearsals for the Broadway show Orphans. There was the whole plagiarizing-everybody-for-a-while thing. There was his early and short-lived retirement. There was the “I Am Not Famous Anymore” paper bag on his head. There were the #IAMSORRY gallery shows. There was the arrest during Alan Cumming’s Cabaret. I think that about covers it?
It was a difficult time (for both of us). “Louis is just going through a rough period, like we all have, but on a very public stage,” I’d say to my friends in the middle of our nightly round of Cosmos at 1 Oak. “What?” they’d say. “He was a child star! That’s notoriously difficult to bounce back from,” I’d hastily explain to my 12-year-old sister as she stared at me blankly.
But recently, Shia seems to be on the up-and-up. He’s sought treatment for his alcohol addiction, which is admirable. He’s making fun of himself on talk shows, which is universally recognized as the first real step of celebrity repentance. He’s doing interpretive dances in Sia videos, which is universally recognized as “...whatever.” He filmed Man Down with Kate Mara and Jai Courtney, seemingly without incident. And now, he’s been cast in American Honey, the first U.S.-based feature from British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (of the fantastic Fish Tank).
American Honey—which may or may not also be the title of the Winnie The Pooh reboot from Alex Ross Perry—“centers on a runaway teenager who’s selling magazine subscriptions around the U.S. and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard-partying, law-bending and young love.” Finally, a glimpse into the raucous world of magazine-subscription sales. And who better than Shia to bring a sense of lived-in, real-world mishegas to the proceedings? Perhaps it will be a role that fits him as snugly as Louis Stevens (just kidding that is impossible).