Posted by: greercn | October 27, 2016

American Honey

Andrea Arnold has an incredible knack of making you feel like you are the only viewer who understands the interior life of her female stars. Every detail feels personal and real.

Intimacy, energy and youthful charm suffuse this extraordinary and yet difficult movie. At a whopping 162 minutes, the camera lingers on insects, flowers, water and body parts. It’s hypnotic, in its use of music, piercings, nail colour and tattoos. No detail is trivial or brushed over.

“American Honey” defines a dispossessed generation, yet it will be more popular in Europe than in America. There is a knowing wisdom here that U.S. directors avoid.

We meet Star as she is looking after two young children. We aren’t told her age, although we are told, much later, that she is 18. Is she their sister? Is she older than she looks and, therefore, is she their mother?

Meanwhile, we’ve had some great big dazzling American skies and a scene of dumpster diving that will break your heart.

Sasha Lane plays Star who joins a team of young adults who sell magazine subscriptions. They get dropped off in different areas and picked up and taken to motels, after work. Along the way, they steal, take a lot of drugs, have casual sex and listen to loud and angry rap music. This is laced in with Steve Earle, the Dead Kennedys and Lady Antebellum.

Nobody ever mentions that Star is mixed race. That seems odd when everyone else in her group is white. Yet it’s Sasha Lane’s anger and energy that propels a performance that will make her a big star.

The cast and crew crossed 1200 miles of American towns and cities to make this movie. Apart from Lane’s glorious performance, Shia LaBeouf shines as Jake, the male leader of the crew.

His boss Krystal is an outstanding Riley Keough who ought to get to play a Bond villain on the strength of this.

I went to see it with my friend Layla, at the Stratford East Picturehouse. It’s a pity that more people weren’t there, but it has been on for more than a week.

We both enjoyed it. Layla said so much of it rang true, in terms of the intensity of the emotions and the cinematography. Robbie Ryan makes much of this look beautiful, even when the individual situations are hard to watch.

I love the distinctive Arnold ability to get inside your head and make you feel engaged with the characters.

I wish it had been slightly shorter. But it’s a grand and brave British attempt to see inside America’s head and heart. It’s not perfect and it will make Americans uncomfortable. That visceral honesty and energy offer “American Honey” greatest strength and its weakness.

There is no universal feel good factor here. But there is a whole lot of reality about the lives of those who are young and socially-excluded, wherever they live.


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