American Honey

Steady as a preacher

Free as a weed

Couldn’t wait to get goin’

But wasn’t quite ready to leave

So innocent, pure and sweet

American honey

There’s a wild, wild whisper

Blowin’ in the wind

Callin’ out my name like a long lost friend

Oh I miss those days as the years go by

Oh nothing’s sweeter than summertime

And American honey

American honey,

Performed by Lady Antebellum

Songwriters Shane Stevens,

Cary Barlowe, Hillary Lindsey

“I grew up in a working class family, so I guess you could say I write from what I know.”, says British director Andrea Arnold. It’s one thing to make a film about a British working class teenage girl as she did with Fish tank (2009), but to make such a vivid portrait of American youth and American society is simply astounding. To say that the film’s main focus is 18-year-old Star would be an understatement. First time actress Sasha Lane is in every scenes and in almost every shots. The shaky handheld camera follows her everywhere. At time it shoots her from the back of the head, as if it wants to mirror what Star sees. As if Arnold was saying, “I am with you. I see what you see and feel what you feel.”. Star does not have much she can count on. An abusing father and a heartless mother who is running around having fun, while Star has to take care of her younger siblings. She decides to leave it all when she sees a group of teenagers who seems to be having a great time. But mostly, it’s Jake (Shia Labeouf at his best here) that Star is attracted to. He proposes the she comes with them. They are door-to-door magazine sellers. Jake’s cocky assurance wins her over. And us too. The sellers are travelling across several states in a van. They are a diverse group of youth. There is one youth who has a habit of always flashing his penis, whether people want to see it or not. And they listen to a lot of music. American honey has a great collection of songs. Beside Lady Antebellum, there is music by Kevin Gates, Fetty Wap, Bruce Springsteen and E-40 among others. Their boss is Krystal (Riley Keough, Elvis Pressley‘s granddaughter) a young woman a few years older than them. Jake is picked to be Star’s trainer. The job is to knock on doors and convince (and seduce) clients into buying magazine subscriptions. Jake is doing fine, until Star screws up the sale when she gets angry at the woman and start swearing. And then she gets into more possible trouble when she hitch a ride with three middle-aged men wearing cowboy hats. Star seems to be unaware of the danger. These are cringe worthy moments. During a key moment a truck driver asks Star if she has any dreams. There is a smile appearing on her face and she has sparkles in her eyes as she answers that she never thought about that. Another revealing scene has Star buying groceries for children living with a junkie mother but no food in the house. Most of the actors in the film had never acted before. The cast was found in parking lots, construction sites and streets. Lane was spotted sunbathing on a beach while on spring break. She certainly a great talent. Hopefully we’ll see more of her. American honey is an epic travelogue. It clocks in at 2 hours and 42 minutes and it shows an America we never see. The despair, the poverty, but also the hope. Youth like Star, unaware or unafraid of dangers. Taking a plunge. Chancing being touched by a stranger. With sparkles in their eyes.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

American Honey

Directed by:

Andrea Arnold

Screenplay by:

Andrea Arnold

Starring:

Sasha Lane

Shia Labeouf

Riley Keough

Bruce Gregory

162 min.

 

 

 

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