Film Review: American Honey

ah960Frances Winston feels that this film never quite delivers on its promise, while newcomer Sasha Lane does a great job in the title role!

Directed by: Andrea Arnold – Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Raymond Coalson, Chad McKenzie Cox, Verronikah Ezell, Arielle Holmes, Garry Howell, Crystal B. Ice, McCaul Lombardi, Shawna Rae Moseley, Dakota Powers, Isaiah Stone, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Christopher David Wright, Will Patton

You may not recognise many of the names in this cast list and that’s because it is made up of both actors and non-actors. Director Arnold has literally plucked people off the streets for this coming of age road trip tale, including the lead actress, Sasha Lane. Well, more specifically she plucked her off the beach, where she spotted her during Spring break, and liked her attitude. But you get the idea.

Lane plays Star, a teen who just wants to get away from her impoverished existence. When the opportunity comes along to join a crew who travel the country selling magazines, she jumps at it, and the experience proves to be life-changing, as she sees and learns about worlds she never knew existed.

It takes you on a journey through the entire socioeconomic spectrum, and sometimes makes for uncomfortable viewing, as Star struggles to detach her old life and upbringing from the worlds she now finds herself in. However, much like the characters depicted, this often seems directionless and aimless. At nearly three hours long it sometimes just plods along, and Arnold could easily have shaved about an hour off the running time. The story meanders, and there are lots of scenes that become somewhat tedious, particularly the long rambling scenes where they travel to their next location.

That said, despite her inexperience, Lane does a great job in the title role. Despite the huge cast, this is very much her movie, with LeBeouf as her love-interest, Jake, and Keough (Elvis’ granddaughter fact fans) as her boss, Krystal, very much merely supporting her and helping her tell her story. All the characters are extremely colourful, but you never really get to know much about any of them, which seems a shame.

The road trip premise gives them the opportunity to showcase some fantastic cinematography throughout, and there are some beautiful shots. This is coupled with an erratic contemporary soundtrack to fit the personalities of the characters, and the scenes featuring music are some of the most high-energy in the film.

This never really delivers on its initial promise. You wait for the payoff, only to be disappointed that it doesn’t really go anywhere. At times it is fun, and it has some wonderful moments and great interaction with Lane and LeBeouf. But in trying to leave in everything, Arnold has left in too much, and lost the focus of the film. A nice movie in parts, but the narrative is far too loose to be truly engaging.

In Cinemas October 14th!

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