American Honey

American Honey ★★★

Finally got around to this and I'm conflicted about it. Arnold is a deeply empathetic director whose years of research and development in order to craft this film largely pays off, at least in a stylistic sense. However, I don't feel that the cultural commentary that she's going for every really lands since none of these characters have any genuine sense of interiority. They are archetypes floating in the wind of American aimlessness, and Arnold seems unable to truly interrogate the conditions that led them to their hedonistic lifestyle. Perhaps more shocking is the film's failure to talk about race in any meaningful way, especially considering Lane is a black lead surrounded by abusive, appropriative, slur-slinging white kids. Perhaps the point is that these wandering souls live in a fantasy world untouched by those kinds of issues, but to suggest that is ignorant at best and harmful at worst. Despite her best intentions, I think Arnold has ended up with an overlong film that's never challenging in ways that it can and should be. It's simply an aesthetics machine that churns out painterly views of American desolation without ever taking the time to explore the truths that give it its ugly life.

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