The Cohen Gallery is a small, unobtrusive building on Beverly Blvd., directly across from the offices of BuzzFeed, and if you’re in Los Angeles between today and this coming Sunday, Shia LaBeouf would like to personally apologize.
At this point, the question becomes “What is he apologizing for?” After all, he’s already had a skywriter spell out his apology to Daniel Clowes in giant letters overhead, and he’s tweeted out dozens of carefully plagiarized apologies on Twitter as well. LaBeouf, of course, has been the subject of what has to be an unpleasant degree of scrutiny, and he has handled it with grace and charm.
Wait… no, I mean he’s acted like a lunatic, overdoing it to such a degree that it has felt like performance art. And now, as if to underline the point, he has taken up residence in the Cohen Gallery for several days as part of a collaboration with Nastja Sade Ronkko and Turner, two artists who have a decidedly post-modern bent. The project is called #IAMSOSORRY, and I’m starting to see reactions to it from the first batch of people who went through.
THR went today, and they described the exhibit as “bizarre.” Visitors are admitted to the exhibit one at a time. There is a table full of items including an Indiana Jones whip and Transformers toys and you take one of those, a folded-up note picked from a bowl, and then you sit across from LaBeouf at a table while he wears the “I Am Not Famous Anymore” paper bag over his head.
Evidently, LaBeouf does not speak during the encounter. Or at least he didn’t speak to the person the Hollywood Reporter sent over. While I had no interest in rushing out to buy coffee from “Dumb Starbucks” over the weekend, I must admit… this has me curious. I’m going to have to go by and do this one myself, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see where LaBeouf goes from here.
Self-immolation is never an easy thing to watch. Whether he is genuinely being worn down from these events or he’s being a total wiseass about the whole thing, he’s done the thing that can be most deadly to an actor, someone whose whole job is to vanish into different characters: he has made himself the story. It becomes hard for an actor to disappear once they’ve achieved a certain level of notoriety just for being themselves. Joaquin Phoenix managed to shrug off all the weird press he gathered once “I’m Still Here” came out, in no small part because his work in “The Master” and “Her” is so strong that it erases those tabloid appearances from the collective memory. LaBeouf was a charming kid when he started making TV and film appearances, and I think he’s got enough going on behind the eyes that I was willing to watch him slowly hone his craft from film to film.
He’s been in neutral for a while, though. While I liked “Lawless,” it didn’t make a dent in the scorn that a vocal percentage of the audience has for him over films like “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull” or the “Transformers” sequels. He does seem to have played into the accusation that he doesn’t have much range, that he has a series of tics he falls back on as a performer, that he seems to say the word “no” with more frequency than anyone else ever allowed in front of a camera.
Then again, he also just made a film with Lars von Trier, and he left the “Transformers” series, presumably to focus on smaller films that could help him shake the baggage he’s accumulated. If he just wants to disrupt the narrative and rebrand himself, I’d say he’s succeeded, but perhaps not with the new labels that he wanted. Plagiarism is one of those things that taints people’s opinions of you overall, and it is a humiliating thing to get caught doing. Regardless of this exhibit or any of public acting out, if LaBeouf really does want to put this all behind him, he’s going to have to deal with it head-on at some point, and he’s going to have to drop the act.
I’ll report back once I get a peek at this myself. In the meantime, here’s hoping this is all a calculated response on his part, and not the desperate flailing of a drowning man.
The Cohen Gallery is located at 7354 Beverly Blvd, and #IAMNOTSORRY runs from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day through Sunday.