Authentic and Absorbing Coming-of-age Drama
AMERICAN HONEY hits big with an engrossing coming-of-age tale all it’s own. A high point in writer/director Andrea Arnold’s filmography, AMERICAN HONEY is a film created by a detailed and patient filmmaker not looking to cut corners for cheap payoffs.
AMERICAN HONEY is to SPRING BREAKERS what THE DARK KNIGHT is to SUICIDE SQUAD. In case that went over your head; It is what SPRING BREAKERS could have been if the director wasn’t looking for cheap thrills, but instead wanted to explore the young people of middle America without lazy exploitation of female sexuality, if the actors involved were competent, if it was based in an approachable reality that allows the audience to sympathize with the characters, if the dialogue was engaging to the point that the line between screenwriting and improvisation blurs, and if the director and cinematography channeled more Terrence Malick and less rap videos.
AMERICAN HONEY yields a star-making performance for newcomer Sasha Lane as our protagonist ‘Star’; a trailer park victim of the recession in the midwest looking for an escape. Lane’s emotive facial expressions speak volumes that cannot be captured on paper. The despair or curiosity she can invoke in a simple sideways glance or head-tilt is essential to this story.
Sasha Lane’s ‘Star’ falls in with a gang of young, hard-partying miscreants looking to make a quick buck off door-to-door magazine sales. The traveling caravan is led by Shia LeBeouf’s ‘Jake’, a greasy degenerate Romeo. LeBeouf’s charisma is on full display as he captivates not just Star, but the film audience as well. His mixture of confidence, anger, and melancholy is something Star can aim for if she so chooses.
The character perhaps most important to this film is not Star or Jake, but the soundtrack of AMERICAN HONEY – a mix of trap, house, and pop-country that breathes life into this film and maintains a direction for our band of young salesmen.
AMERICAN HONEY‘s best feature might also be its biggest obstacle in finding a large audience…It is a film about how you get somewhere, not where you get to. Star’s personal growth is her change in perspective about what escape is, and what her confines are.
- Cinematography: 9/10 – Great use of landscapes and scene framing
- Directing: 9/10 – Gets the most out of the cast
- Soundtrack/Score: 10/10 – Music is the lifeblood of this film
- Acting: 10/10 – Sasha Lane is a revelation and Shia LaBeouf is in his element. Supporting case is perfect.
- Screenwriting: 8/10 – For the length of this film, it doesn’t feel it.
10/10, A road film/coming-of-age story that isn’t concerned with what the audience thinks and doesn’t apologize for it, but offers a worthy reward for patient viewers.