Jake is part of a ‘mag crew’, a gang of late adolescents who sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door. Crossing America in a fug of pot smoke and BO, they spend their days wheedling cheques out of strangers and their nights getting trashed in bleak motels. It’s a set-up that allows English director Andrea Arnold to depict America in her own brilliant way.
Arnold is the star of American Honey. That’s not to discredit the cast: the mostly first-time actors (Lane included) convey all the authenticity that’s required of them, and LaBeouf finally puts in the charismatic and credible performance that he’s been threatening for a while. But the film’s most memorable aspect is its sublime direction.
It makes American Honey not just a great film but a great cinematic experience. Arnold’s camera wobbles around taking in the all the sensory information of Star’s world, all the texture and detail, and it makes the film feel almost unbearably real even at its most romantic moments.
It also engineers empathy for its protagonist. Star isn’t articulate, and she’s not even especially likeable, but we see the world so totally through her eyes that it’s impossible not to appreciate her conception of America as a smorgasbord of opportunities.
At 163 minutes, the story eventually begins to drag. There are perhaps too many inconsequential incidents, too many ‘raw’ sex scenes, too many Rihanna songs. It ends up recalling The Revenant, another mix of gorgeous and gruelling.
All this means is that American Honey is too much of a good thing. In comparison, most other films seem confined by staginess, by directors either hitting the beats or missing them, but always tapping to the same old rhythms. American Honey’s apparent shapelessness is part-and-parcel with its naturalism; it’s the price of achieving such an organic unfolding of character and ideas.
Like life, American
Honey is mostly just one thing after another. The trick – Arnold’s trick –
is knowing where to look. See American
Honey on the big screen to give the mundane its beautiful due.
|What||American Honey film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
14 Oct 16 – 16 Dec 16, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|