Editor’s Notes: American Honey was out on in its respective home video format December 27th.
American Honey (Lionsgate) is about a Southwestern gang of young scam artists who pretend to drum up magazine sales. A van full of disenfranchised male and female misfits, outcasts, and mavericks has joined together forming an team of grifters. Star (Sasha Lane) is an 18-year- old who’s been recruited to this group. She is taught how to collect cash with phony magazine subscription pitches along with her accomplices, claiming to be earning money for college. When unsuspecting folks open the front door and invite them in, they quietly and quickly case the home for valuables and steal what they can. Star’s mentor is Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and the teams’ leader is Krystal (Riley Keough).
Director Andrea Arnold paints a vivid picture of deteriorating cities in 21st-century America with its twenty somethings on self-destructive paths to nowhere. Living day to day on their wits, their ability to charm, and their penchant for drugs and alcohol, they supposedly have a carefree, authority-less existence, but it’s also a dead-end, depressing lifestyle. There are similarities to Dickens’ Oliver Twist in that both works focus on the young leading lives of crime, always eager to add to their number.
The movie follows this lost generation from town to town in an objective documentary style. Though they live, travel and “work” together, there is no real responsibility of the group to the individual member. Each member is there to steal; his or her personal story is not relevant. This pessimistic view of rudderless young people is sad, yet feels very real. The movie features a great deal of sex, but the sex often appears desperate, rather than pleasurable, as if these people have so little, they cling fiercely to any human connection.
Shia LaBeouf is effective as Jake, managing to show a vulnerability beneath Jake’s surface swagger and self-assurance. The actor has been tabloid fodder for some time, but when he gets a good role, or even a decent one, he knows how to make that character a person you can believe. We see much of the movie through the eyes of Ms. Lane’s Star. As the newcomer to the gang, she’s learning as we, the viewers, are getting to know her. Though she often projects toughness, she is fragile, insecure, and more frightened than she lets on.
Unfortunately, the film’s running time is a major drawback. With an epic 2 hours, 43 minute running time, it is really a small picture whose story is more effectively told concisely and with far less embellishment. Director Arnold often allows scenes to go on too long or fails to edit out extraneous and/or repetitive scenes.
The only special feature on the Blu-ray release is actors Sasha Lane and Riley Keough (granddaughter of Elvis Presley) discussing their roles in the film. A digital HD copy is enclosed.