Directed by Andrea Arnold
Country: USA / UK
There’s no doubt that Andrea Arnold is one of the most observant filmmakers and compelling writers of our times, attributes acquired through indelible movies such as “Fish Tank” (2009), “Red Road” (2006), and a remodeled indie-version of the classic “Wuthering Heights” (2011).
“American Honey”, her first American incursion, stars debutant actress Sasha Lane as Star, an 18-year old low-class girl from Muskogee, Oklahoma, who spends her days taking care of two little children in the absence of their negligent parents.
In the first scene of the film, we see Star grabbing a raw whole chicken from the garbage to take to the kids’ home.
Stop by a local K-Mart to buy drinks for the children, was just an excuse to flirt with Jake (Shia LeBeuf), a natural seducer whom she saw celebrating in a van with a bunch of teenagers. He invites her to follow them to Kansas City where he can give her a job as a door-to-door magazine seller.
At first, she lets the opportunity slip. However, disgusted with her aimless life, she resolves to embark on the adventure. After leaving the children with their mom, she finds Jake in Kansas and joins the group of waifs that works for Krystal (Riley Keough), the intractable boss who collects the money from the selling agents.
Jake starts training Star, but when close to her, he loses all the focus that made him a top-seller. Star usually ruins the business due to jealousy and exposes herself to dangers when accepting different rides from strangers - three cowboys, a truck driver, and finally an oil field worker.
Krystal is the one who’s not happy with the situation. She easily replaces Jake at night in bed but doesn’t tolerate the ones who don’t bring her money.
After making love with Jake in his sports car, Star raises her hands above the head and looks at the sky shouting: ‘I feel like I’m fucking America!” – this is the most memorable scene of the film.
Their possessive relationship becomes tenser with the time while the sales crew shows a compromising emotional instability, which is directly related to frequent alcohol and drug consumption.
Despite the engaging correlation between rustic images and urban soundtrack and the brave performances by Lane and LeBeuf, this well-directed hippie road-movie drama wasn’t so impactful as Ms. Arnold’s previous moves.
It runs a bit long in its two hours and forty minutes, struggling with a few repetitions of ideas that, despite initially interesting, become tiresome.
The drifting “American Honey” is Andrea Arnold’s messiest film with its wobbly narrative and uneven parts, some of them stronger than the whole. However, we still have some captivating moments that accurately reflect a lost American youth… with passion, heart, and dreams.