American Honey

American Honey is one of those rare American movies that are so beautiful that even Shia LaBeouf couldn’t ruin it.

I’m not exaggerating. It really is that good. In fact, Shia’s in it. And he’s really goodamerican-honey-3. Really, really good.

American Honey works neither in spite of or because of his performance. Instead, he is just one of many important parts of an impressive cast of mostly non-actors with not a single weak link in the bunch. Jake (LaBeouf) leads a team of about a dozen runaway youths who earn their living by travelling across the United States selling magazine door-to-door. Their newest recruit Star (Sasha Lane) isn’t so sure that she is comfortable with the lies that her new colleagues use to sell their product but, having seemingly nowhere else to go and having quickly fallen for Jake, she starts to feel at home with them anyway.

american-honey-2I struggle to communicate what it is that works so well about American Honey. My writer’s block was so bad that I went to see it a second time, quite a commitment with its 163-minute running time. All I’ve really learnt from two sittings is that writer-director Andre Arnold creates a believable world around these characters and makes it easy for the audience to feel like they’re a part of it. (Well, maybe I should just speak for myself. At my first screening, the film had lost over half its audience by the end).

To keep from getting too bored or discouraged while on the road, Jake’s team engage in american-honeyany number of traditions and rituals that are often somehow both unsettling and charming. Their favourite songs, games, and chants serve the film well in helping create a subculture that we can believe and relate to. Beautifully naturalistic performances from an exceptionally well-chosen cast, great choice of music, and some terrific (though sometimes elf-indulgent) cinematography help bring their world to life.

It’s hard to describe what works about American Honey because it works mostly on an emotional level. Intellectually, I’m not sure if it’s really “about” anything other than an unusually honest and surreal coming of age story but the power of the filmmaking gave me chills.

 

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25 thoughts on “American Honey

  1. Ashley Lily Scarlett

    I’m so looking forward to seeing this. I like the look of the trailers and I really like Shia Labeouf. I like his acting (not in Nymphomaniac, though) and I find him a fascinating person. I know, I know, thousands disagree . . .

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    1. Matt Post author

      Well, I always found him to be a promising actor, I just never found that he did anything that was all that interesting and he was a dick about it by always trash-talking his projects after-the-fact.

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      1. Matt Post author

        Yeah, he bugged me to no end in that one. But I actually really didn’t like that movie, for reasons that years later I can’t remember. I do remember finding it needlessly sadistic though.

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  2. polarbears16

    Really liked this one. And I completely agree about it being hard to pinpoint what it is exactly that works so well about it. All I know is that the performances were great, the story was a lot of fun, and the ending was quite moving.

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  3. J.

    Added to the list! Good to see Shia back on screen. I haven’t seen him in much, right enough… Transformers, Charlie Countryman and Lawless (oooft), but I like him.

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  4. Courtney Young

    “so beautiful that even Shia LaBeouf couldn’t ruin it.” Omg A+++ statement!!

    I’m SO bummed that I didn’t get to see this one on the big screen…it was playing at an indie theater near me…for only a week 😦 The run-time kind of deterred me, but after reading this, I’m slapping myself for missing it.

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    1. Matt Post author

      I don’t know if it really needed to be that long but I can’t think of anything I would have liked to see cut. I think you’ll like it.

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  5. Liz A.

    Sometimes you have to sit with a movie for a while before you can articulate what it is that you love about it. And sometimes the emotional connection is so deep you can’t quite explain it. Not a bad thing, that.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Oh, for sure. One of my favourite movies of the last few years was Beasts of the Southern Wild which, had I been reviewing movies when it came out, I would have had no idea how to review.

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  6. Tom

    Starting to get legitimately pissed off on the number of amazing-sounding movies I am missing out on by rolling the dice and landing in f**king New Jersey. Lol no theaters near me are playing this, Loving, Manchester by the Sea, half a gazillion others. Sad face.

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  7. Khalid Rafi

    I was pretty excited for this ever since the reviews out of Cannes started to roll out and I’m still pretty excited for this because I loved Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank.
    Thanks for putting my mind at ease because Shia LaBeouf was my only main concern about this film.Glad to hear he does a good job here too.

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