‘American Honey’ is the fourth feature length film by British writer and director, Andrea Arnold. Set across the Midwest the film follows a magazine crew as they attempt to sell subscriptions to anyone who will buy from them. However, with such a versatile and somewhat immature group things are never as simple as they could be and our main character, Star, is about to gain an on road experience like no other.
For a lot of people (myself included) the only name that they’ll recognise associated with this project is Shia LaBeouf. He seems to be quite a marmite actor, however I am a big fan. Personal life aside I think that LaBeouf is a really talented actor and has been picking brilliant films over the last number of years. His stint in ‘American Honey’ only strengthens my argument. He plays top seller, Jake, a character who has many layers and LaBeouf embodies each of these so well. He is very watchable in this role and although his actions don’t always reflect attributes of someone we might admire you can’t help but like his character. Alongside LaBeouf we have Sasha Lane playing main character, Star. This was Lane’s acting debut but you wouldn’t know it. She is wonderful here and leads the film with such confidence in a role which leaves her quite exposed in terms of screen time and focus. Rising to this challenge more than adequately Lane gives her all with this performance and comes across so authentic. The other character who is most developed is Krystal, the owner of the magazine crew, played by Riley Keough. Keough has only been acting for around five years but this doesn’t stop her from holding her own in a film full of strong performances. She plays an often detestable character and she nails this offering a contrast from the at times idealistic experience that both Star and the audience are having.
The narrative is simple but interesting. The nature of the story allows for a lot of characters, each member of the crew receives a similar amount of screen time but we don’t really get to know any of them that well. The film is about Star and that’s ok but that doesn’t mean the other characters, whilst never the real focus can’t contribute to making the narrative more engaging. Aside from the characters the narrative is fun, emotional and thought provoking and manages to make an almost three hour running time drive by in an instant. Provided you know that ‘American Honey’ takes it’s time the length should in no way be an issue. Even apart from the performances and narrative the film is hardly a chore. It looks and sounds great too. The film features a killer soundtrack with songs ranging from some seriously crude rap, to the heavy beats of Calvin Harris & Rhianna and even some Country & Western thrown in for good measure too. The film has the confidence to use this soundtrack too which makes it all the more effective, letting songs play out in their entirety allowing the audience to ponder the scene present and what has come before it almost giving the allusion that you are right there with Star and the rest of the crew cruising across America.
‘American Honey’ has certainly encouraged me to check out the past filmography of Andrea Arnold, her confident film making here was a pleasure to watch. With raw performances from the whole cast, a continued streak of quality from LaBeouf and a very special debut from Lane Arnold definitely got the most of her cast. Thanks to them and several other elements the narrative is told in a visually appealing and thoughtful manner making ‘American Honey’ some of the best cinema escapism in some time.
Rating – 8.5/10
Question: What is your favourite Shia LaBeouf performance?
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