heather jane kwiatkowski’s review published on Letterboxd:
"It's a movie about the current generation, don't cha know???"
I hate people.
And for a while, I hated American Honey. The first hour of this was grueling and just insufferable. It literally took me 4 days to get through it. Of course, the whole movie is aesthetically gorgeous and it sorta rides on that, but I just couldn't get past how bombastically obnoxious and in-your-face-look-how-wild-and-free-we-are-don't-you-wish-you-were-like-us-(?) tone it had going for it. It's a road movie, with the movie centering around a character named Star, the dreadlocked girl you see in all the promos and turns out to be a pretty good character, despite how much I wanted to turn the movie off because of how much I couldn't stand her for that oh so dreaded first hour. Nonetheless, American Honey follows Star (Wars: Rouge One, A Star Wars Story, in theaters now!) as she travels the American heartland with a band of misfits harassing strangers to buy cheap magazines. Oh, and Shia Lebeouf is there too. With a rat tail. Once you get over that, Shia gives a pretty well rounded performance for what he's offered. The writing in this movie is a hot garbage fire and while I can look over it in the scenes after that FIRST HOUR because of the beautiful visuals and the overall story picking up in an interesting way, I can't help but be bothered when American Honey is, well, a hot garbage fire. Take for instance all of the wild and kooky youths (as the subtitles describe them, as just youths) that are along the ride with Star and Shia Lerattail. There's this odd, mildly disturbing vibe I get from them, and no, it isn't that I look down on them because of their identity or whatever (you didn't like this movie because you're privileged and don't know what it's like!1!1!1!1!1!) it's that there's this under the surface collectivist thing going on. They all sing the same songs, they dance, and they're all friends and kissy kissy goo goo ga ga. The movie tries so hard to sell you that this is what FUN is, that you should merge with the group and just be a cog like everyone else because, y'know, friendship! I don't buy that crap. As stated in line 2 of my detailed informative review, and I quote, "I hate people." That means get the hell out of my face. Now I know it isn't completely in this collectivist type deal, and I'll get to that in a minute, but holy sweet hell if I were in that van I would jump out as fast as I could and roll off to the side of the highway no matter how many bones I would break. The dialogue is so warped and awful, it's like "Yo, bro, you wanna get turnt? Take a sick hit of this mary jane, dawg, like aye man this is hella the shit." (Of course that wasn't an exact quote but I'm parodying how awfully bad and cringey the writing is, because that's absolutely something that would be said in Andrea Arnold's American Honey) As if I'm supposed to buy that as authentic at all??? Now take this. Here's another example of something that stoinks: There's a scene where Star Vs The Forces of Evil and Shia Qui Gon Jinn are inside of a house, trying to sell these magazines to a White™ Christian™ Mom™, right? And Shia is doing his thing, y'know, trying to butter her up and trying to slip some money in his pocket when the White™ Christian™ Mom™ starts to undermine Shia. Star decides it's time to jump in the way and starts telling her off, sabotaging the sale, and the atypical White™ Christian™ Mom™ says to them, "I've tried very hard to be Christian. But I think the devil is inside of you." (which sounds like a line that would be said in a movie made by /r/atheism to portray how bad White™ Christians™ are) and Star replies, "Oh yeah? I think the devil is in your DAUGHTER!" as she points to said White™ Christian™ Mom's™ daughter, who is dancing like the youfs do to trap music. This scene was possibly the worst thing that has ever been in a movie ever in the history of movies. Just the way it's written, it's like an edgy 13 year old girl on Tumblr making up a fake story how she stuck it to the mean Trump supporter, "And then I told her that the devil was in her daugher, and the whole neighborhood stood up and started to slow clap as they cheered me on like a badass." Now, listen. This isn't because I'm upset they're making fun of Christians, or because they're making fun of middle class white people, or because of anything like that. I consider myself an atheist, I just don't ask for a cookie for it; I'm not a Trump supporter much at all, and also I feel I should say that as growing up a poor black child, I know what it's like to be in Star and the bunch of misfit's situation. My judgement only lies in that the point Andrea Arnold was trying to make was dumb and obvious. It was more a problem with how it was executed more than anything that got me hung up over it. But this movie is riddled with those moments, moments I'm too tired to really get into. I mean this sucker is a whopping 2 hours and 43 minutes, you can't exactly get into every tiny thing that pissed you off and consider suicide, or at least, turning the movie off and finding something else to do. But after all this bitching and snarking, isn't it time I express why I actually kinda liked the movie? Well I'll tell ya. It's our good old friend Star that made it work for me. For people who've seen the movie, the exact scene where I started to enjoy it a little more was the scene with the cowboys. I realize this means nothing to people who haven't seen it and if you haven't seen it why are you even reading this, but I digress. Star represents freedom and sovereignty. Once the first hour or so is over and it's done schmoozing this group, Star is given more time to shine as her arc comes to fruition. Things start to make sense. Whereas the big group of people she's traveling with may represent Marxism of some sort, Star on her own represents some kind of libertarian-ish idea. She's a free spirit of her own and plays the game by her own rules, and while she does get set aback a few times, Star, by being herself and her own woman, is developed as someone who becomes more successful. Star learns who she is, she learns what she's gotta do in life, what's important. To see the silver lining and how to interact with people while maintaining her sense of self. That part I admired. I should also mention, like I did earlier, Shia Lebeouf, who was fantastic. Sasha Lane, the actress who portrays Star, has just excellent chemistry with Lebeouf. It's wonderful. The more tasteful aspects of American Honey are the beautiful subtleties left sprinkled inside, such as how in the beginning of the movie when Star leaves her old life behind to take on the magazine salesman life, she leaves behind two very important things. I found it tasteful that it was hinted at multiple times in the film how Star feels guilt about this decision, despite not being obvious about it, whereas it's expressed through the agonizingly gorgeous visuals. Words can't describe how oozingly fantastic this looks. It felt like I was seeing color for the first time it was so fucking pretty. If anything I'd recommend the movie on that sheer basis alone. So, I mean, all in all, I think I enjoyed American Honey quite a bit. It was pretty good. Of course I have my reservations, but that didn't stop it from catching my eye and capturing my heart. American Honey is about America in 2016/17, and in that regard it does fairly well. It just so happens I hate this generation. Nevertheless, good movie, please go check it out.
Oh yeah and it's artsy now to have terrible music in your movies so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to that. At least Mazzy Star's Fade Into You is cool.