A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.
Review by Louise Keller:
As fresh and unexpected as its hypnotic star Sasha Lane, this seductive road movie with its serendipitous selection of songs to match emotional experiences, invites us into an intriguing and edgy reality which surprises at every turn. Filmmaker Andrea Arnold's vision requires us to partake in the journey of the young protagonist and experience minute by minute events that unfold. We are flies on the wall; the film plays out like a slice of life. It's a coming of age story about dreams, being rescued and wanting to rescue. The 163 minute running time flies. It's a gorgeous film with a spirit of its own that independent film lovers will adore.
Star (Sasha Lane) has dreadlocks bunched on the top of her head, chipped nail polish and attitude to spare. We quickly learn her life is far from perfect and it is not surprising that she is drawn by a carload of loud misfits, who she inadvertently meets at a Walmart store. The details about Star's life before joining the group are best discovered in context. Making money from a business opportunity in Kansas is the plan and although Star knows the work involves selling magazines door to door, nothing prepares for what is ahead.
It is the central relationship between Star and Jake (Shia LaBeouf), the charming extrovert with the long plait, tats and studs that sparkle (he likes sparkly things) that fascinates and holds our attention. LaBeouf's characterization is complex and complete; this is one of his best performances. The scenes when Jake takes Star under his wing to teach her how to 'read' the people are wonderful in that we have no idea what is going to happen. The chemistry between them is hot as the raunchy sex scenes play out.
Star is like a loose canon: she does what she wants to do regardless of the consequences.
Watch for the sequences involving Star, three lecherous cowboys and a bottle of Mezcal liquor (with a worm); a truck driver with dreams who loves Bruce Springfield; the oilfield worker who buys her wine 'cause all girls like wine'. There's an unerring sense of danger about them; we have no idea where they are going to lead. Star, who lives by her instinct makes Jake look like a hustler, while she sells dreams.
This is a film that creeps up on you, so firmly entrenched we become in the reality. It's the little details that matter, like the carefree frivolity in the combi van with bongs, songs, liquor and interactions, coupled with the dynamics of the relationships between Star, Jake and the jealous, controlling Krystal (Riley Keough, Elvis's talented granddaughter). As for Sasha Lane, she is dazzling and unforgettable. Like the film.
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AMERICAN HONEY (MA15+)
(UK, US, 2016)
CAST: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes
PRODUCER: Thomas Benski, Lars Knudsen, Lucas Ochoa, Pouya Shahbazian, Jay Van Hoy, Alice Weinberg
DIRECTOR: Andrea Arnold
SCRIPT: Andrea Arnold
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robbie Ryan
EDITOR: Joe Bini
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kelly McGehee
RUNNING TIME: 163 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 3, 2016