I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
British director Andrea Arnold has given me one of the most complex movies to write about this year. It’s not a confusing film, but it is a deep, deep film.
She has directed a film called American Honey starring a psychology student called Sasha Lane, an art piece called Shia Labeouf and a country called the U.S.A. Lane plays a teenager who is picked up by a group of down and out magazine selling youths and gradually falls under the spell of one of them, played by Labeouf.
The casting process, having, looking it up online, was very much a case of life imitating art. Arnold walked up and down a beach looking out for drunken youths and asked the most adventurous ones if they’d be in her movie. Out of this came a brilliant first performance from 20-year-old Sasha Lane in this film.
Opposite her, LaBeouf does a lot more acting stuff, his performance involving more energy and is practically gift-wrapped for the man. Overall, though, to compare these two is like asking who does a better performance between Brando and Pacino in The Godfather. Pointless.
The whole film is in a wonderful mix of neo-realism and hard diajesis. All the music and life of the story feels like it’s happening within the movie’s 1:1.33 aspect ratio. A documentary would feel less real.
On top of that, this might be the best looking and sounding movie of the year. We follow these kids as they discover themselves and the world. This journey works its way with one helluva soundtrack, moving from Bruce Springsteen to something more modern and cool, seamlessly. This might be the only time I’ve heard Rhianna’s ubiquitous Hopeless Place and liked it as it fits so darn well, helping me prove my point that if there’s a piece of music, there’s a film that needs it and vice-versa.
While we take this ride, we are appalled and enamored by these kids. They infuriate us through their decisions, but we love them as we as the audience are their parents, despite them mostly being older than me.
Like in Hunt for the Wilderpeople the film asks us to come out of our comfortable existences and watch an 18-year-old drop into a skip to find food. That’s our opening scene and the film continues with this image burned into our minds throughout. This is Oliver asking for some more, which is fitting since this would be the Oliver Twist of this generation, if Oliver Twist wasn’t already the Oliver Twist for every generation.
I reserve the right to not call American Honey an outright masterpiece as there is something wrong with this very moving road movie. There is no reason for it to be 160 minutes. I can’t say exactly where a cut should have been made, but 2 hours and 40 minutes feels a little indulgent.
Then again, I love P.T.A’s over-indulgent masterwork Magnolia, so what do I know?
Recommended Scenario: If you wanna sit down with a near 3-hour road movie with the feel of a documentary and the emotional power of a V8.