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American Honey

wilder · 10 · 4039

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on: June 21, 2016, 05:37:31 PM

A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.

Written and Directed by Andrea Arnold
Starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi, Crystal Ice, and Arielle Holmes
Release Date - September 30, 2016

« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 06:00:57 PM by wilder »

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Reply #1 on: June 23, 2016, 11:50:18 AM
That energy, hotdamn, goes right into my veins. Looks incredible.


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Reply #2 on: June 23, 2016, 01:42:11 PM
That energy, hotdamn, goes right into my veins. Looks incredible.


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Reply #3 on: June 25, 2016, 12:17:37 PM
the limitless potential of fiction and they went with fucking magazine sales? this looks like garbage.
"new film from shane carruth based on pagers!"


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Reply #4 on: June 25, 2016, 03:01:10 PM
I know a woman who had gotten caught up in this industry when she was a teenager in Hawaii. She has some fucked up stories from the experience. It's a bizarre, seedy, sketchy as shit business.




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Reply #5 on: June 25, 2016, 05:17:06 PM
"new film from shane carruth based on pagers!"

Sounds awesome!

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Reply #6 on: July 01, 2016, 05:22:40 AM
Wanted to love this. Really, really disappointed. It's like an American feature length version of her short film "Wasp" but the punch and momentum of that film replaced with an unfocused improv style (that most of the cast can't deliver on) and a wannabe Larry Clark, Harmony Korine feel. After a while the movie felt so repetitive, again and again watching white trash listening to trap music, having a great/bad time, traveling across America in search of the "American dream". It sure looks nice and Shia and Sasha have good chemistry but some of the dialogue is bad (one of the girls going on about her darth vader obsession nearly killed me) and key dramatic moments felt unbelievable and overall this was a hard watch... 


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Reply #7 on: October 07, 2016, 02:20:13 AM

I’ve got to agree with max, this film is really problematic. Worse, it’s condescending, pre-judging its characters based on economic circumstance in attempt to make larger, reductive points about American culture. The photography is beautiful to look at a lot of the time: sun-drenched landscapes and ethereal visions of nature, strong shadows and light dancing contrasted with vast swaths of vulgar human constructions like gas stations, big-box discount stores, truck stops, and architecturally lacking cookie-cutter tract homes, but it could have benefited from more of the associative imagery of Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher and less of the wandering eye of Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder to offset the repetitiveness and simplistic message the visuals conveyed.

The conceit of the story is a strong starting point — a-down-on-her-luck girl joins a group of impoverished kids traveling door to door selling magazines (which gives the director an excuse to show several slices of modern America), but the device is used with extreme bias. Andrea Arnold has cherry-picked the most perverse parts of American culture for sideshow display, which would be fine if the film were more insightful or even distant (I’m a fan of Harmony Korine and half of Larry Clark’s oeuvre), but as it is it’s not with the aim of understanding it or representing these people and situations fairly, but for cheap dramatic effect (bunch of rich white Texans want to fuck a poor girl on the street, Christian mother is judgmental and hypocritical, dead beat parents go dancing and drinking instead of taking care of their kids, white trash people display confederate flags, etc.). These characters are never given a chance - they’re bad examples of how “fucked up” the United States is from the moment we meet them. The film doesn’t go very far beyond this. Star (Sasha Lane) even declares herself “America” while standing up in a stolen car at one point, then prostitutes herself a few scenes later. Very deep. So deep.

I’m pretty shocked I didn’t like it. I love Lauren Greenfield, Larry Sultan, and Tina Barney’s photography, which seem to be the kinds of visual touchstones this film had in mind, but I didn’t feel much that was very real, here. The relationship ups and downs felt like contrived “scenes”. The film wants to say something about misplaced values and American capitalism eating itself, but ironically becomes capitalism eating itself in the portrayal of the people the film needed to focus on first as an entry-point to its message, instead of its message being an entry-point to portraits that feel half-baked and slanted to support its patronizing thesis. "Make money!" is the group's anthem, and, I guess, America's anthem, but the thin relationships offered as a contrast to this pursuit don't have enough meat on them to matter. I didn't hate the movie, but was extremely disappointed. It felt like a missed opportunity to me.

A quote from a review by Jake Cole on Letterboxd that I agree with for the most part:

Quote from: Jake Cole
AH is stuffed with fleeting shots of insects—swarming over undisposed food, flailing ominously in a pool, the worm at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal—are thuddingly obvious metaphors for its youth, who are reasonably depicted as being trapped in a system where the only way to survive is to peddle wares that are obsolete, all for the benefit of an older exploiter who keeps most of the gains and pays back just enough to keep stringing her employees along.

Yet whatever empathy this might engender is undercut by the fact that Arnold introduces her characters via leering scans over their blemishes, their acne scars and gaunt skin and bad teeth. These are real people, and to be honest I wish we saw more people in movies who actually exist in the world outside coastal cities. But the way Arnold shoots them only calls attention to how unlike the professionals they are, how "daring" Arnold is to have cast them. That the film's basic themes of economic duress evaporate amid the endless close-ups and arty flourishes only further pulls focus on the repellent class tourism at the expense of simply letting her actors be their natural selves. It's a shame, as both the unconventional actors (including Heaven Knows What's Arielle Holmes, rendered astonishingly unbelievable by her character's stupid Star Wars quirk) and Shia Labeouf (thoroughly inhabiting a role that has no underlying substance to support his good work) are robbed by how self-serving Arnold's direction ultimately is.


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Reply #8 on: October 08, 2016, 12:28:49 AM
This review is really on-point:

Cannes Review: American Honey discards real emotions for pointless objectification
By Elena Lazic
May 25, 2016
via The Seventh Row

From its opening sequence, something feels uncharacteristically off about Andrea Arnold’s new film American Honey. It opens with a sequence showing three young people searching for food in a dumpster. From then on, Arnold’s close-ups consistently objectify the film’s attractive, lower-class protagonist Star (Sasha Lane), seemingly embracing the disturbing but all-too-common idea that a certain raw, primeval beauty can be found in poverty.

This cliché is all the more disconcerting coming from Arnold, whose earlier film Fish Tank (2009) demonstrated profound humanism and respect for her lower-class characters. But in American Honey, Arnold refuses to allow her characters’ personalities and emotions to carry the film. Instead, she falls back on a simplistic, unoriginal, and tiresome approach: the film continuously objectifies the characters, striving to make them interesting and appealing only on a superficial, visual, and kinetic level.

Arnold’s best work by far, Fish Tank, also unambiguously objectified its main character Mia. But crucially, Mia always actively participated in that process. Part of the film’s success was in its careful handling of a delicate topic — a young girl’s discovery of her sexuality and her own attractiveness — while directly addressing the implications of self-objectification and self-othering.

Mia’s passion for dance, at first an exclusively solitary and physical activity, evolved into a spectacle as she gradually explored its visual appeal and that of her young body. The lingering camera during the sequences of dance and seduction brilliantly expressed Mia’s feelings of self-othering from her own body; she was trying to imagine how someone else might perceive her. This objectifying camera was always on her side, operating like her and for her.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of American Honey. The camera’s intent seems to be a rather misguided attempt to validate an idealised, picture-postcard — or  instagrammed — vision of youth. When teenage Star abandons her family to join a gang of young, friendly strangers, it’s as much to follow flirtatious magazine salesman Jake (Shia LaBeouf, baffling as ever), as to escape her precarious social and economic situation.

The short selection of cliched sequences picked to illustrate the poverty-stricken world Star comes from look like an outsider’s construction drawn from photographs, ideas, and anecdotes rather than from lived experience. Similarly, when Jake’s entourage introduce themselves, mentioning their hometowns, it anchors the film on an abstract map more than it makes these people or places feel real. It’s pure Americana: Arnold’s characters feel like actors playing dress-up.

This flatness could be defended as reflecting Star’s own, subjective perspective, blinded by love and desire. But if so, her motivations still appear very thin. Star is a girl with a short attention span, who seems to forget and forgive easily, and whose love interest is a question mark. Shia LaBeouf’s enigmatic Jake does not elicit any sense of uncontrollable attraction the way Fassbender did so powerfully as Conor in Fish Tank. Conor’s absence was just as palpable as his intoxicating presence in the tiny rooms of Mia’s flat was felt. In contrast, Jake is a maddening enigma without any real depth.

The problem here is that Arnold seems to justify the carelessness and emptiness of Star and her friends as being the result of some sort of feral, primal attitude they have. Arnold decides, without any real justification, to situate this state and attitude in Americanness itself. Despite spending two hours of screen time striving to get Jake to treat her right, Star ultimately decides to ignore his hurtful behaviour in order to embrace the group spirit: she joins in with everyone dancing around a fire. Using the titular song, “American Honey”, in those closing moments feels like a forced, clunky effort from an English director to artificially attribute this attitude — favouring the group over the individual — to American culture.

But Arnold’s celebration of the supposedly uniquely American “free spirit” results in a condescending attitude toward her characters. American Honey chooses to focus almost exclusively on surface-level aesthetics instead of interiority, as though Arnold is uncertain whether her characters’ interior lives will even appeal to the audience. The camera strives desperately to sustain the viewer’s interest by filming every part of these “primal” bodies, as if Star and her friends were unknowable animals rather than people. This approach is insulting to the characters’ intelligence — and to the viewers’, as well.

American Honey persistently tries to conjure “movie magic” moments, which might work if they weren’t so predictable. In a contrived scene, Jake explains that  he would sometimes howl like a wolf so his father could find him more easily — a depressingly obvious gesture at the cringe-worthy notion of Jake as a “lone wolf”. Such supposedly cute moments seem intended to trigger fondness for the teenage protagonists, who are portrayed as naive, empty, and undomesticated. But these hackneyed lines only added to my exasperation.


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Reply #9 on: January 10, 2017, 07:35:41 AM
I also agree. I didn't know much about the film except that it had been highly praised and had been in a bunch of big festivals. Seemed like your standard "indie american film" (like Short term 12) and because of that I assumed it was 90 minutes long. But then it started feeling repetitive and like it would never end. Imagine my dismay/surprise when I checked and founf out that I was already on the 2 hour mark and still had about 30 more minutes or something like that to go.

I also was not aware that the director was the same girl from Fish Tank, a film that felt real and with a deep knowledge of it's own universe, unlike this one. I didn't hate the movie. After all, the "package" itself and performances, everything is "well done" I guess; but I was impatient during most of it and wanted it to end. the screenplay is problematic, as was mentioned before, and full of cringe worthy cliches which almost work because the actors elevate the material.

I know the cinematography was good but it was also kind of boring. I kept thinking it looked like a typical sundance indie american movie. Lots of hand held, "improvised", "documentary like" movements. I felt it would be cool to see a film like this but more visually stylish. What if you use a tripod? Would it make it less authentic?

What I really don't get is all the praise this has been getting.