Movie Review: “American Honey”

Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi
Andrea Arnold

Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” is a nearly three-hour film that, on the surface, doesn’t add up to a lot. This coming-of-age tale is extra light on plot, but it has no shortage of energy or passion. This is the kind of movie where every shot and scene is tangible. The director behind “Fish Tank” and “Red Road” has crafted a hypnotic experience, presenting a world and characters that keep your eyes glued to the screen for 163 minutes.

Star (Sasha Lane) is an 18-year-old girl who’s looking for a new life, and she might just find it with Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and his crew, who travel the country selling magazines. One day while out with her younger brother and sister, she spots Jake and his young gang out and about, doing whatever they please – sing, dance, or whatever else would draw attention – as they shop. Their sense of freedom, and Jake’s charisma, catches Star’s eyes. Jake offers her a chance to travel the country with him and the rest of the team, going from motel to motel, town to town, trying to sell enough magazines to get by. Star agrees to go with them and embarks on the first big journey of her life. Along the way, maybe she’ll learn an important lesson or two, but Andrea Arnold isn’t the kind of storyteller that’ll tell you if she does; she’s the kind of filmmaker that shows you.

Arnold avoids most narrative conventions. Because of that, her movies tend to truly live and breathe. There’s rarely any doubt they’re authentic. In “American Honey,” she’s even less interested in a three-act journey, although her script and Star’s journey clearly has a beginning, middle and end. Most of “American Honey” feels like the most personal and cinematic home videos you’ve ever seen. There’s always an immediacy and intimacy to what we’re watching, and that’s partially because the actors are so present.

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