We’re only throwing it back to 2016 this Thursday. But Andrea Arnold’s road film, American Honey, certainly deserves acclaim.
Yes, this is a Shia LaBeouf movie. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
American Honey is the story of 18 year old Star. Star is responsible for raising her two younger siblings, impoverished, in Oklahoma. As Star, her brother, and sister are hitchhiking home from dumpster diving, Star is fascinated by a van of young adults dancing, talking, and being free. She focuses intently on the leader, Jake, who tells her he has a business opportunity for her. Star, leaving her siblings and handsy stepfather behind, joins the van crew and learns she’ll be selling magazines door-to-door across America.
The film turns into vignettes of Star as she explores different towns and different men, and the lessons she learns. Sometimes these standalone scenes don’t pay off but, in the end, they serve as parts of a whole. There’s no reward or payoff, apart from Star’s growing up. It’s simply an exploration of a crew of young adults, hustling to make money, and attempting to enjoy themselves along the way.
American Honey stars newcomer Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, and Riley Keough whose characters explore coming of age, sexuality, sexism, America, and classism. Sasha, Shia, and Riley are accompanied by the rest of the magazine crew (071!): 8-10 young adults who were cast as Arnold approached drunk teenagers on beaches and streets. These newcomer actors make the film so much more realistic. You knew these kids when you were 18.
Andrea Arnold’s direction beautifully compliments the acting. She makes oil fields and rundown hotels look interesting, even stunning. Arnold has directed a few episodes of Transparent, her original film Fish Tank, and the 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
American Honey is streaming on Amazon Prime.