Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

American Honey

American Honey
Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough

Rated: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, drug/alcohol abuse-all involving teens.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: October 14, 2016 Released by: A24 Films

British writer/director Andrea Arnold has affection for contemporary nomadic youth in revolt in Middle America in this rambling, impressionistic travelogue of a reckless subculture. She adapts her gregarious, protracted tale from a 2007 New York Times article, and the title comes from a Lady Antebellum tune heard later in the proceedings where electric songs echo throughout (there are sing-alongs to Ludacris and Rihanna).

American Honey moves from Oklahoma to states like Nebraska and Missouri with a penetrating eye thanks to the lensing of usual collaborator Robbie Ryan who focuses on the exploration of hope on the horizon through ignorance and ill-advised thinking. When not looking rather closely at insect life.

The key component is the casting of tyro Texan actress Sasha Lane (lined up during a Spring Break) as 18-year-old Star who exudes a raw vibrancy in abandoning her family to join a rag-tag crew hustling magazine subscription sales in a white van at a Walmart. She's has an eye for the charming, though testy Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who tells Star their mission is more than business as he rides in a convertible with manager Krystal (a flinty Riley Keough who happens to be the grand-daughter of Elvis Presley). One surfer dude is hardly shy when it comes to self-exposure and another has an obsession with all things Star Wars.

Arnold avoids the temptation of adhering to coming-of-age familiarity with a more hedonistic, visceral focus even as some conflict develops between bitchy Krystal and steely Star over the former's boy-toy. It's an unflinching, impassioned lesser-seen ride as refracted by the characters with a notable sequence involving a brash Star and three older, quite prosperous Stetson-donning Texans.

In American Honey the filmmaking lets a long summer unfold in loosened reiterative, somewhat intoxicating fashion as lurid elements of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers and Larry Clark's Kids often prevail here. But, having a first-hand look at the supple cognizance Lane commits to the carnal, curious sides of Star can help the on-looker from getting too sore on the backside before and after Jake turns out to be an unsavory letdown.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
American Honey        C+                     C+ 

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