American Honey

American Honey ★★★★

2019 Watchlist Ranked
Scavenger Hunt 54 - 8/30 - #13 - Watch a film where partying and/or drugs are heavily involved.

"You know what Darth Vader looks like beneath that mask? He's a skeleton. Just like the rest of us."

What is it about road trips that makes them feel equal parts liberating and mind-numbingly endless? American Honey, in its attempt to find out, is the road trip movie to end all preconceptions of road movies.

It's a tenderly filmed slice of Americana starring a group of unknowns--led, of course, by absolute breakout Sasha Lane, a terrific Shia Labeouf (featuring the most visually unpleasant rattail I've seen), and a stellar Riley Keough. It's because of Andrea Arnold's strategic casting that characters like Lane's Star, a deeply, at times frustratingly, naive young woman, feel as genuine as they do. These aren't characters that you want to root for but, as alien as they may seem, Arnold continually finds ways to make us understand them.

Arnold's cinéma vérité approach in Honey also lends the film a raw immediacy that bestows it with a voyeuristic allure that I found irresistible (despite the film's hefty runtime). It's a bracing watch that made me feel uncomfortable as much as it had me on the edge of my seat. Still, this an imperfect portrait. Some scenes feel unnecessary and others downright outlandish (enough so that they threaten to undo the authenticity around them).

As far as indie stories about youth in revolt go, American Honey is an impressive cut above most. It's a conversation-starter of a film that treats its very emotionally vulnerable characters with compassion and leaves an unforgettable impression.

P.S. When Pagan said, "they're gonna send us to the spice mines of Kessel, and they'll fuck with us", I felt that.

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