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Ride along with 163 minutes of American Honey

By Zach Green, October 7 2016 —

Long movies and I don’t generally get along. If a movie is longer than it needs to be, I get horribly impatient. So when a film can keep me engaged for three hours, I can tell it’s something special. British director Andrea Arnold’s third film, American Honey, did exactly that.

The film follows Star — an impoverished 18-year-old girl who joins a group of young misfits travelling across the United States selling magazines on a never-ending road trip. Despite a relatively aimless plot, the film is full of irresistible and infectious energy. Its portrayal of reckless young adults makes a devil-may-care lifestyle look like loads of fun. Much of the film involves the magazine crew just hanging out, getting high and drunk and singing along to hip-hop music.

American Honey is also an incredibly immersive feature. As Star becomes further integrated into the magazine crew, the audience feels the same. This is thanks to the naturalistic performances from its mostly non-actor cast. The whole ensemble seems like they truly belong in the subculture that the film portrays, making the film feel almost like a documentary.

Most importantly, newcomer Sacha Lane gives a fantastic debut performance, showcasing how loveable and unpleasant Star can be. This could be a star-making role for the young actress, then there’s Shia Laboeuf as Jake — a rat-tailed hooligan with the charisma of a cult leader, who initially seduces Star to join his crew. The toxic romance that develops between Star and Jake is one I was both enthralled and dismayed by, as it’s clear from the start that the relationship will turn ugly.

My biggest and only real gripe with American Honey is its ending. The film attempts to give itself some finality by concluding with a very symbolic scene, but it mostly feels like Arnold noticed that she had three hours of footage and realized that she needed to end her movie. However, the disappointing ending didn’t take away from everything that preceded it.

American Honey is a wild and surprisingly mesmerizing ride. At 163 minutes, the film is sure to exhaust many viewers. Nonetheless, American Honey is a remarkably unique movie that took me on a ride unlike any I’ve been on before.

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