American Honey

American Honey ★★★★½

A dense, complicated, intimate, beautiful, shocking, relatable, intense, daring, everything portrait of American life, one that taps into the qualities that define the country's greatness - the land, the people, the adventure - yet never flinches from showing it at its most despicable, terrifying, saddening or disappointing. But ultimately it leaves me feeling uplifted, fulfilled, as the sense of spontaneity, perseverance and comraderie we experience through Star (Sasha Lane)'s perspective on a cross-country journey builds an intricate texture of moments and memories that layer over each other as an undeniably American life unfolds before us. Such a sense of growth and struggle, movement and change, is hard not to be inspired by - both in terms of the narrative, and the kinetic and raw, yet oftentimes graceful, filmmaking.

There's so much to process here; at 162 minutes, it's among the longest films I've seen all year, and it earns that length. In fact, its length is among its greatest assets, giving us ample time to live and breathe with Star as she goes through (surely) some of the highest highs and lowest lows of her life. Another great asset, naturally, is Star herself, with Sasha Lane not so much acting as embodying the central character. The poster shot of her waving (while standing in a car) might as well become iconic, but it's only one of many striking snapshots of Star and her companions and surroundings arranged into this scrapbook of American life, love, lust, culture, economics, food, music, personality, hope, struggle and vice, weaved with vigor and care through handheld cinematography that follows the "action" poetically. It's among 2016's most perceptive movies.

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