Movie Review: American Honey

By Jonathan Fuchs, Music Director

[A24; 2016]

Rating: 8.5/10

The Lady Antebellum song “American Honey” is about a girl with so much ambition for her future, she runs away from her small town life too soon, causing her to regret running away so fast and miss the times of her care-free youth. That is kind of the story of the film of the same name, an almost three-hour long epic that surprised audiences worldwide and swept away the Cannes Film Festival, winning the main Jury Prize this year.

American Honey follows Star (Sasha Lane), a teenager living in poverty-struck Oklahoma, who runs away with a crew of magazine salesmen, who travel all over the mid-west making money. With them, she finds love with crew member Jack (Shia LaBeouf), breaks the law and parties hard.

The actors in this gang of misfits, which consist of almost all unknown teenage actors (including Lane), are fantastic in their roles. Most of the characters are broken and complex, with their own painful pasts and angst, which they take out through their heavy smoking and drinking. Some of these characters are not as well written or performed as others, but the amount of story and interesting dilemmas they pack in the film’s very long run-time makes up for these faults. The role Shia LaBeouf takes on, the love interest of Star and the lover of the crew’s boss and leader Krystal (Riley Keough), is the best role of his career. It’s clear he studied a lot for this role, as he constantly comes as unpredictable and unsettling; you never know what he’s going to do next in the film, which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. Most of the film was shot with natural light on handheld cameras, giving the film a grainy yet beautiful look. Director Andrea Arnold’s look at the mid-west is fascinating, with the crew exploring all different areas of Appalachia, from wealthy, privileged neighborhoods in large cities, to plains in the middle of nowhere, to oil rigs, to drug-heavy towns in extreme poverty; there’s just about everything here in terms of setting. The soundtrack is also great, which is mainly the music the crew plays in their van, which consists of artists like Rae Sremmurd, ILoveMakonnen and OG Maco.

American Honey is a film Jack Kerouac would be proud of. It’s this generation’s ideas of teenage rebellion and independence put into a magnum opus of cinema. It’s relatable, uncomfortable and despite the incredibly long runtime, you’ll be upset when it’s all over.

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