American Honey movie full length review - The American road movie, reaching for/falling short of dreams
"American Honey" (2016 release; 158 min.) brings the story of Star, an 18 yr. old woman looking for a future to believe in. As the movie opens, we see her going through a dumpster, looking for anything of value.
She's in a terrible relationship with her live-in boyfriend, and when she has a chance encounter at Walmart with a group of traveling young people selling magazine subscriptions and offered an opportunity to join, she doesn't hesitate and leaves the boyfriend. At this point we're maybe 15 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from British writer-director Andrea Arnold, who most recently brought us "Wuthering Heights". Here, she tackles an utmost un-British, in fact iconic American topic: the road movie. Indeed, much of the movie is set in and around the van that takes the group of young people from city to city, from state to state. These young people have decided to flee their daily lives and instead are now road warriors, selling magazine subscriptions from door to door, a grind for sure, only to then let off steam in the evening. Some may think that Arnold is glamorizing that way of life, but in fact the opposite is true: selling magazine subscriptions to strangers is a tough way to make a living, and the endless traveling around, with no end in sight, is boring. Apart from the life style, the movie focuses on the budding friendship between Star (played by newcomer Sasha Lane) and Jake (played by Shia LaBeouf). Lane is nothing short of amazing, in her first acting role ever, and LaBeouf amazes us all, in a career-defining role that proves his true measure as an actor once and for all. The movie features TONS of great music, and for some reason Arnold decided to film it in an unusual 4:3 screen ratio, although the photography itself is sun-drenched eye-candy for much of the movie. At 2 hrs. 38 min., the movie is over-long for sure, but I must admit that it nevertheless flew by in no time. At some point, Star asks Jake: Do you have any dreams?", to which Jake replies "Nobody has ever asked me that before", and that right there sums up the movie perfectly. Young people on the road to nowhere, without any purpose or ultimate goal.
"American Honey" premiered at this year's Canned festival, where it snagged the Jury Prize. It finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati and I couldn't wit to see it. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (3 people besides myself). Given the nature and length of the movie, I can't see this playing very long in theaters. If you are in the mood for an off-center movie experience about life on the (endless) road featuring a group of young and aimless people, I'd readily suggest you seek this out, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.