None of you have any idea how much I really didn’t want to see this damn film. Why? Because no matter what movie I was seeing, the trailer for it would pop up. Sort of like my burning hatred for MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN (2016) and just how much I was seeing it’s trailer (to be fair, the movie itself was solid). It’s like a kid that’s constantly shouting at you, “Look at me! Look at me! Are you gonna look at me?! Look at me!” until your sanity shatters like glass and you pay attention to him just to shut the little fucker up. This was hardly any different. To make things even worse, it starred Shia LaBeouf, whose work I am not a fan of, and looked like it’s be an obnoxious and pretentious coming of age road trip film. Inject me now.
Well let’s take a look at the rest of the cast. The film stars Sasha Lane, the freshest of fresh faces. This is her debut… period. According to her IMDb page, she has no short film credits, no TV credits, straight up got this gig on her first go. Who the hell is this girl friends with? In any case, bravo miss Lane. Welcome to the entertainment industry. May God be with you. Co-starring is LaBeouf. His roles almost always seem like he’s trying to be a more cartoony version of Jesse Eisenberg; dorky, but a fast-talking wise-cracker. Even when he branches out, he feels like he’s trying to stand out. I do admit that I enjoyed TRANSFORMERS (2007), but there’s only so much of his performance that I can find entertaining over the course of two additional films. He’s never been that entertaining since. Finally, we have Riley Keough, the eldest grandchild of famed singer Elvis Presley. While I can’t claim to be a fan (not familiar with her work) of hers, I do remember her role in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015). She’s also been in films like THE RUNAWAYS (2010 – the documentary EDGEPLAY: A FILM ABOUT THE RUNAWAYS  was better) and MAGIC MIKE (2012).
Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Andrea Arnold, a fairly new director with some feature-length titles and some short films as well, nothing that I’m familiar with apart from working on a few episodes of the TV show TRANSPARENT. I admit that she seems to be a film maker’s film maker, as in she writes and directs her own movies. And since she doesn’t often do big budget movies with money-grubbing studios to dictate how her vision looks, this could easily be the movie she intended to make the entire time. I’m nervous, but I do respect artists like this.
I’m not going into this with the highest of expectations. As respectful as I want to be of Arnold’s vision… yeah, it doesn’t look too compelling. Great movies that tackle edgy subjects like this exist and it’s hard to see this film standing out. But let’s see how it goes. This is my honest opinion of AMERICAN HONEY.
The story follows Star (Sasha Lane). She lives a hard and almost demeaning life with a boyfriend who’s closer to a pig than a man, while looking after her two younger siblings. While at the supermarket, she locks eyes with a roudy but well-meaning young man named Jake (Shia LaBeouf), a hot-shot traveling magazine seller traveling with a large group of youths. He offers her to come with him and join the group; get away from the life she lives. It doesn’t take much for her to accept the offer, leave her siblings with her deadbeat mother. Soon, she meets their employer, Krystal (Riley Keough), a tough-as-nails southern gal who is all business and doesn’t trust Star at first, but hires her, to be trained by Jake. So begins an epic road trip of partying, drinking, romance, jealousy, bitterness, and discovering ones own potential.
*bashing my head against the back of the seat in front of me; clawing at my armrest*
Okay! Okay… calming my ass down. First thing’s first, a PSA to anyone who was planning to see this film:
IT’S THREE HOURS LONG!!! I repeat, THREE…. HOURS…. LONG!!!!
On that basis alone, I think it’s not worth it. I could have been given the entire bottle of Rosé Brut, instead of the two glasses of it that I mercifully needed to get me through this schlock. But I know it wouldn’t have been enough. This film is awful.
Where do I even start? There isn’t one interesting character in this movie.
Star? What exactly does she do in this movie? In the beginning, there’s potential. She’s forced to steal to take care of her siblings, and lives with an asshole boyfriend. You sure feel sympathy for her, and even quietly cheer while she’s running away to get the hell out of dodge. But her character ends there. The very moment Jake enters the picture, the movie is pitching the age-old bullshit that Disney, even Shakespeare have been called to task: love at first sight. Where’s my barf bag? No joke. These two characters are totally smitten. There is no progression of their relationship, there’s no reason for him to like her, or her to like him. It’s just… THE POWER OF BONERS CAN’T BE DENIED!!!
Their first outing is embarrassingly simple. This is supposed to be work, right? He’s training her to be a salesperson. Their first person who’s willing to give them the time of day to hear them out, Jake’s doing a decent job of schmoozing his customer. He’s making up a story about this and that, and suddenly, Star takes offense. Jake’s putting on a show, he’s lying, but who cares? So long as you sell a magazine, that’s what matters. Star obliterates their chances of making a sell and it doesn’t help that she insults the customer and her daughter. Where the hell did that come from? Is she such a virgin to the world that she doesn’t know how sales works? It’s all about showmanship. And even if you don’t agree with the method on principle alone, why sabotage the outcome when he was making progress? Again, if you don’t like the method, don’t use it yourself, but don’t act like you can argue results. And how does she get chastised for her idiotic and short-sighted actions? Whimsically run through the neighborhood and make out, instead of working! But of course, that makes perfect sense!
Even the movie puts itself on blast when Krystal calls out Star as to why her top seller is falling behind like a newbie. Once again, nothing changes. They only continue to ignore their responsibilities and have sex in a car. Thank God for horny southern dogs and their attempts to get an eighteen-year-old girl drunk on mescal and spending $500 on her to swallow the worm. No real accomplishment achieved, just a distorted sense of independence and hard work. You know that if Jake hadn’t quite fucking miraculously found her, she would be raped by that pool and dumped in the ass end of nowhere. Thank god for a knight in shining armor with an equally shiny handgun. Even when she doesn’t need saving, what else is she doing? She’s climbing in trucks with strange men, giving handjobs to make money. Isn’t this exactly what women fight against: borderline prostituting themselves out to make it even in the hardest and roughest conditions? Seriously, by the time the movie comes to a close, I don’t think Star developed throughout the story. She didn’t learn anything, if there was a lesson being taught.
Now for Jake. Oh yeah, my laser-site is glued onto the back of his head. First of all, his intro is beyond obnoxious. Dancing on supermarket counter tops as if he’s some kind of bad-ass rebel with a statement. Exactly how many times have we seen these mannerisms from other movies both more entertaining and better executed? It’s not like he acts like this again, so what’s the point in painting him out like that. But if that was my only problem with him, I would’ve been in a good place.
This next rant about him, I take great offense to. I’ve been around firearms before. No, not paintball, not airsoft, real firearms. Rifles, pistols, shotguns, all of that. The first thing you’re taught when you handle these things is NEVER POINT THEM AT ANYONE!!! That shit is fucking dangerous. Your instructors, be them a drill sergeant or your friend’s dad who’s a Marine, will drill this fact into you or you’ll get your ass fucking kicked like a rag doll. Now, I’m sure Jake never took “lessons” on how to handle weapons like that, but even toddlers know better than to jokingly point those things at someone. Guess what? That’s exactly what Jake does to Star! Doesn’t matter if there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber, that’s still fucking stupid to do that. At first, Star reacts like a proper human being by getting pissed off with him. But lo and behold, five minutes later they’re making googly eyes at each other and acting like what he did wasn’t beyond irresponsible. Inconsiderate dick-wad? Instant panty-dropper! Golly, this movie teaches me so much about women.
Best of all, that pistol never shows up again. Yeah, that thing only existed so the scene with Star drinking for the rich cowboys could end with Jake looking like a chivalrous hero with a code of honor. That whole sequence could have been taken out of the movie and spared the audience twenty precious minutes of their lives. The movie would have progressed just fine without it.
And finally, there’s Krystal. Um… wow. Maybe my rant about her will be less impassioned, but there’s nothing to her. She’s like the local kingpin who has everyone kissing her toes, but I don’t exactly see what makes her particularly special. She’s their boss. She smokes a lot and fucks a lot. I’ve seen characters like this before who were deep and fleshed out. If anything, she’s only memorable for being hot in a confederate bikini and not liking Star. Riveting…
You know what this movie reminds me of? EASY RIDER (1969). An epic road trip doing nothing but listening to popular music and listening to inane conversations that think it’s deep and culturally relevant, but in reality is just earbleedingly repetitive and nonsensical. This is literally that movie, but with young adults and an ending that isn’t nearly as hilarious (inside joke with me; you wouldn’t be interested). At least with EASY RIDER, if you told me that this movie was the voice of that generation or that time period, then I couldn’t argue. I’m not expert on the sixties, so maybe that’s its advantage. It’s a movie that resonated with those who saw it. Remorsefully, I can see this being less impactful, but having a similar effect. It’s hard pressed to walk down a street and not see young adults to live this sort of life-style screaming their love of this movie and how it “gets them.” It perfectly captures the life and times of modern late teens and young adults. But… it’s not very interesting or groundbreaking. I’ve grown up with kids like this and the generation that followed isn’t much different. Who cares?
Maybe this is something you can get into, maybe it isn’t. The critics sure seem to like it enough. RottenTomatoes gave it an 82% (as of 10/5/2016) and IMDb gave it a modest 6.9/10 (as of 10/5/2016). As for me, I don’t agree with either. I think this film is far too boring and uninteresting to merit even an average rating. In fact, it’s length alone docks it down a few points for me, but the sheer utter pointless nature of its existence… I personally can’t stand it. If you enjoy this movie, keep it, and keep it far away from me.
My honest rating for AMERICAN HONEY: 1/5
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYcx43AmAyY