American Honey - Around Two-Thirds Of This Movie Rocks (Shame About The Rest)
Dir: Andrea Arnold
Starring Sasha Lane, Riley Keough, Shia LaBeouf
Andrea Arnold’s American road movie is quite remarkable for its first two hours, in its boxy cinema ratio. Remarkable and extraordinarily intimate. Her hand held camerawork focuses initially on dumpster diver Star (a superb star-making – and pun intended - turn from Lane) as she struggles to not only survive, but to feed the mouths of those thrust upon her. This is a movie that wants to explore the lives of the one-percenters – but those on the other end of that equation. A chance to both earn money and – more importantly – feel her yong age comes in the unlikely shape of Shia (back on real form here after all the mental stuff) and his unwieldy tribe of door to door magazines sellers. (Yes, if the film stretches credulity it lies in the notion that people still read off line – something it is smart enough to acknowledge.) What follows for Star is a modern day Odyssey across the more barren urban wastelands of the American heartland.
And Arnold proves she has a terrific eye and feel for said world – a great deal of the movie takes place on the bus that moves these itinerant workers from town to town – in what is almost a modern equivalent to the migrant workers of Steinbeck and more. Except here, hedonism plays a part in the nihilistic world around them, something that Arnold again, is completely in tune with. The soundtrack here is fantastic – with Rhianna, Mazzy Star and Springsteen hitting large (but every choice works here.) The songs they play on the bus work because Arnold understands what they mean to the people on that bus – it’s at least part of how they express themselves as well as gear themselves up to do what is clearly unrewarding work. And she as a filmmaker shows a full understanding of that.
It’s a shame then that she doesn’t know to quit when she’s ahead. The first two hours of American Honey are great, insightful, and beautifully acted. But the film itself is closer to three hours long and just as these people standing on your doorstep trying to flog you things you don’t want get a bit tedious after awhile, so does their story. Good for the most part, but you may regret the full subscription.
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