“American Honey” (2016)
Running Time: 163 minutes
Directed by: Andrea Arnold
Featuring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough
Krystal: “Where’s that accent from?”
Krystal: “So you’re a southern girl. A real American honey like me. You know that song?”
This is not a film for everyone, but for those that experience the madness and wonder of Andrea Arnold’s film they will truly have something that will stay with them for some time. Arnold, as a British film-maker brings her own point of view to a kind of coming of age tale that involves some of the worst vices around, she lets us in on what it means to be poor, young and desperate, while finding your way through adolescents and all the fear, danger, humor and fun that it involves.
The film almost entirely revolves around Star (Sasha Lane) is a teenager living in Oklahoma. She takes care of two younger children while being groped by their father (Johnny Pierce II). While trying to hitchhike home she spies a car full of teenagers and makes eye contact with one of the boys inside Jake (Shia LaBeouf). She follows them to a local K-Mart making eye contact again with the stranger from the car. When his phone drops out of his pocket she follows him to the lobby to give it back to him where he kisses her on the cheek and tells her to come with him to Kansas where he will offer her a job. Star declines but the stranger nevertheless tells her to meet them in the parking lot of the local motel.
Star decides to go with the group. Packing her belongings she takes the children she watches to a club where their mother (Chasity Hunsaker) is dancing telling her it is now her turn to take care of them. Though the mother refuses, Star ends up running away from the club and sleeping outside the van of the strangers till morning. The stranger, Jake, is delighted that she came. She is “interviewed” by Krystal, who runs the entire crew and who hires her after she establishes that Star is 18, no one will miss her and that she promises to work hard.
In the car on the way to Kansas, Star meets the other members of the crew including Pagan (Arielle Holmes) who is obsessed with Star Wars, in particular Darth Vader, and death.
“American Honey” is an old fashioned road film, so it does not really have a plot as a such, it is more about experience and what happens to people when they are (kind of) forced into making a living for themselves and their ‘mother’ (a cruel surrogate) – it is exploitive on one hand and completely freeing on the other. The kids have one thing to be concerned about, making a living selling their magazine subscriptions (legal or a rip off I am not to sure). They all live a life of sex, drugs, alcohol and partying. They are all con artists and revel in what they have chosen to do – it is no secret that if they don’t like what they are doing then they should leave and don’t look back.
Sasha Lane, the actress portraying Star is a newcomer and in fact was discovered by director Arnold whole on a beach in the US – she approached her about being in the film and the rest is history – Lane has an immediate, honest and original look, her nature is one that it seems like she has been in movies for years – I look forward to seeing her blossom in the coming years. The actor that has to be talked about is Shia LaBeouf, possibly one of the most mercurial and enigmatic stars working today – ever since his huge success in Michal Bay’s “Transformers” (2007-2011) the actor has chosen challenging and inspired roles while shunning the limelight that he had issues with early in his career. In this film he subsumes his own ego and gives himself over to this role that moves between kind and exceptionally cruel.
As with many adolescents music plays a major part in this film with Rihanna’s, “We Found Love” playing twice, including when Star (Sasha Lane) first encounters Jake (LaBeouf) and the magazine crew that will soon become her de facto family at a local Target. The film’s namesake track plays in the third act, during an impromptu cast sing-along that recalls Almost Famous. As with “We Found Love,” Lady Antebellum’s 2010 single was in the film from
Along with “Fishtank” (2009) which put director Andrea Arnold on the map, “American Honey” is a grand achievement and for an independent road movie has a major running time of over two hours and forty minutes, this gives us the time to really get to know and inhabit the world of the characters and Arnold really shows us new true and original lives she has made an outstanding film and it is one of my top 10 films of the year.
1 Beginning Of Anything – Quigley
2 Uber Everywhere – MadeinTYO
3 Take Your Time – Sam Hunt
4 Out The Mud – Kevin Gates
5 Copperhead Road – Steve Earle
6 Choices (Yup) (Explicit) – E-40
7 All The Time (feat. Natasha Mosley) (Explicit) – Jeremih
8 Ride (feat. Ludacris) – Ciara
9 Recharge & Revolt – The Raveonettes
10 No Type (Explicit) – Rae Sremmurd
11 Bricks (feat. Migos) (Explicit) – Carnage
12 Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
13 8896 – Låpsley
14 You Guessed It – Og Maco
15 I Like Tuh (Feat. I Love Makonnen) (Explicit) – Carnage
16 Careless Love – Bonnie “Prince” Billy
17 American Honey – Lady Antebellum
18 God’s Whisper – Raury
19 I Hate Hate – Razzy Bailey
Released 22 February 2017