Much of Andrea Arnold's American HONEY reminds me of Larry Clark's 1995 film, "Kids," struggling adolescent years, but American HONEY is much more nuanced in that on one hand you have this somewhat social commentary about how we are the richest nation in the world and yet so many of our teens live in poverty and they have to hustle and do certain demeaning things just to get by, just to survive, just to feed themselves. On the other hand, you could see American HONEY from the perspective of the characters and the impressive way in which they organize, you can see their selling and marketing skills, despite it being a scam and rough around the edges. They're doing what wall street does basically but on a smaller, smaller, way smaller scale.
Sasha Lane plays free spirited teenage named star who leaves her troubled trashy home to go on a road trip with traveling laborers her age, they go from town to town, door to door, to sell magazines. Riley Keough plays Krystal, the leader of the crew, and Shia LaBeouf plays Jake, who recruits new members. There's freedom and hard partying that come with this life, Star doesn't essentially agree with some of the group's methods, although young love and jealousy ultimately motivate Star to bend her own morality rule just to prove herself.
Firstly, just a heads up, this movie is 163 minutes long, probably not quite as long as those "Hobbit" movies but definitely one that you'd have to be willing to set aside a big chunk of your evening for, should you want to check out this film. I have to give credit to writer/director Andrea Arnold, not only for this raw depiction of American youth living on the margins, but also the casting decisions, the actors in this film are so convincing, in terms of their looks, their attitude and the way they carry themselves, you start to wonder if they really do live on the margins. Many of the moments in the film are spent on the characters bonding, so it seems that, and I'm assuming, cinematographer Robbie Ryan had to sit inside that van and operate the camera around as one character has their dialogue with another, and it's already crowded as it is, it'd be interesting to see behind-the-scenes video on how they pulled that off.
Arnold is not focusing on income disparity in the inner cities, nope, American HONEY showcases income disparity out in the plain fields of the American midwest. But this isn't some kind of poverty extravaganza either like "Winter's Bone," or "Slumdog Millionaire," the characters in American HONEY get by, they do OK one day at a time, but they undergo unforgiving journeys through suburban sprawl through small towns clearly affected by economic downturn, and you see the resilience in their hearts. You may disagree with their methods, some might even see it as dangerous but what can a fractured, abandoned life can do but to fill the cracks however way they can. They're still teenagers going through crushes and heartbreaks, your usual teenage ordeals, but they're also in a situation where they're forced to be independent adults faster, and Andrea Arnold beautifully captures all of that in American HONEY.
-- Rama's Screen --