Movie Review: A24's American Honey - #AmericanHoney

American Honey
Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, drug/alcohol abuse-all involving teens
Running Time: 162 minutes
Directed & Written By: Andrea Arnold
Produced By: Lars Knudsen, Julia Oh, Lucas Ochoa, Pouya Shahbazian, Jay Van Hoy, Alice Weinberg
Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough
Official Sites: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Star (Sasha Lane) is a free-spirited teenager on the brink of adulthood who leaves her troubled home in the American Midwest and hits the road with a "mag crew," itinerant laborers who peddle publications door-to-door for long hours during the day and party hard at night, never certain where the job will lead next. Led by hard-driving manager Krystal (Riley Keough) and her seductive enforcer Jake (Shia LaBeouf), the 15-strong 071 Crew becomes a surrogate family to Star, offering hope, possibility, love — and the freedom that comes from being on the road. For her first feature set and filmed in the U.S., writer-director Andrea Arnold (FISH TANK, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Academy Award-winning short "Wasp") offers an electrifying depiction of American youth living on the margins and yearning to belong in an unforgiving landscape of strip malls, chain hotels and suburban sprawl.

An epic odyssey into American economic life as seen through the eyes of its outcasts, underdogs and strivers—many of whom were cast directly from the nation's streets—AMERICAN HONEY features a star-making performance by newcomer Lane, an astonishing turn by LaBeouf, and an unforgettable soundtrack melding country, Southern hip-hop "trap" music and American radio classics. Arnold's visionary and propulsive fourth feature is a generation-defining cinematic experience that locates unexpected beauty between the cracks of a fractured—yet defiantly hopeful and resilient—nation where a new day can bring anything....

“American Honey” is a messy, gritty, and free spirited road trip along a winding road of youthful wild abandonment. The film opens showing Star (Sasha Lane) rummaging through a dumpster with her two younger companions, placing her in a desolate home life of poverty and abuse. Quickly thereafter she runs across Jake (Shia LaBeouf), who invites her to join his roving family of teenage drifters as they make their way across the Midwest. With nothing to tie her down, she climbs into their van and tags along as they go door-to-door through neighborhoods and truck stops, selling magazine subscriptions to whomever will buy. As Star and Jake make their way, their ruthless young leader Krystal (Riley Keough) quickly notices their sales goals are continually sidelined and asserts her dominance over her top seller, Jake, much like a pimp’s control over a prized prostitute. Star and Jake often succumb to a raw, animalistic passion that regularly breaks the movie’s surface with its underlying love story.

Far from being the usual cautionary tale Star is reckless, impulsive, and never once asks for the audience’s pity. She is almost childishly tender and naive, but at the same time ruthlessly self-assured, impervious to danger, and surprisingly aware of the power she possesses. Sasha Lane, having no previous acting experience, is captivating and does a fantastic job of giving her character depth. Shia LaBeouf fit perfectly into his role as Jake and had excellent on screen chemistry with Sasha Lane.

The outstanding soundtrack offers just as much to the film as the characters themselves often having scenes that solely focused on the music perfectly setting the mood. The cinematography by Robbie Ryan is eye-catching and noteworthy. The film was shot in a square frame format which at times felt like a series of Instagram pictures set in motion. The acting overall was effortlessly on point and very natural. You didn’t feel as if you were watching characters on the screen, but rather a group of kids just being themselves. “American Honey” offers peek into a way of life that nobody overeagerly wants to acknowledge exists in America and personalizes it. Flagrantly earning the R rating given, the film gives you unapologetically raw sex scenes and creates a nothing to lose feeling throughout the film, which is exactly how you feel walking out of the theater.

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