Release Date: October 14, 2016 (UK)
Director: Andrea Arnold
Writer: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes, Crystal Ice, Veronica Ezell, Chad Cox, Garry Howell, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Raymond Coalson, Isaiah Stone, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Moseley, Chris Wright, Summer Hunsaker, Brody Hunsaker, Johnny Pierce II, Chasity Hunsaker, Michael Hunsaker, Kaylin Mally, Laura Kirk, Will Patton, Daran Shinn, Sam Williamson
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 163 minutes
Production Company: Parts and Labor, British Film Institute (BFI), Film4, Maven Pictures, Protagonist Pictures, Pulse Films, A24
Country: UK, USA
Based on the high praise it seems to be getting from everyone else, I suppose I’ll just say I just don’t get it. American Honey is just not for me. I walked in the theater wondering if 2 hours and 43 minutes was really necessary for this film, and I walked out with confirmation that it was not. Though I will admit, the pace (for the most part) was such that it didn’t feel long at all. And while I’m talking about the positives, Sasha Lane and Shea Labeof did a great job as Star and Jake. The characters were very believable. There were great shots that made you feel like you were on a road trip in middle America. And it seemed the film was trying to make a point with Star always taking the time to help small creatures return to their natural habitat, perhaps a reflection of her trying to find where she naturally belonged.
So what didn’t I like about the film? The use of Hip Hop seemed excessive and almost forced, though I admit it may be from my own perspective and experience. The use of the N-word is just a no for me. Sasha Lane is the only Black person in the film, but the N-word is used by and towards people other than her. I do not use the N-word (any form of it), and I am just not comfortable with non-Black people using it (any form of it). And though it wasn’t used towards hers, I didn’t miss the fact that the confederate flag was plastered in her home in the beginning of the film and on the bikini of the ring leader, Krystal (Riley Keough). And I’m pretty sure when she first joined the group there was a comment about collard greens that was barely audible among all the chatter, but I heard it and interpreted it as being a comment on Star’s race. But truth be told, there really didn’t seem to be any overt reference to her race. It could be purposeful, though it must be expected that at least some of the audience would hear the N-word, and see the confederate flag, and ponder if the film is somehow speaking to Star’s experience as a woman of color. It would seem ignorant not to, and unfortunately I feel the film didn’t speak to Star’s experience as a woman of color surrounded by White people who call themselves the N-word, listen to Black rappers almost non-stop, all while rocking confederate flags (which just to be clear is a flag that reflects a tradition of hate, not a tradition of a location on a map).
The storyline itself left me uncomfortable and uneasy for the most part, taking away from the carefree road trip vibe I think it wants to create. Beginning with her being groped by who I assume was her stepfather, I felt Star was very vulnerable. And yet she kept jumping in cars with strange men, making me cringe in my seat as I awaited something horrible happening to her. But generally, nothing horrific happened to her. And as much as Jake was a clear douchebag from early on, even I felt something was there between him and Star. And though Krystal did her best to convince Star she wasn’t special to Jake, even going so far as to tell her just that, Star doesn’t seem to be drawn to Jake just because of what is likely her daddy issues. It did seem that Jake shared special, vulnerable moments with her that he likely didn’t have with the other girls he brought into the group, and Krystal’s obsession with making Star feel like she could be kicked out the group at any moment and was not special to Jake seemed to confirm just how much Star was different from the rest in Jake’s eyes. But he was still a complete creeper (especially in the scene with the middle school girls). And more importantly, the film could have saved a lot of awkwardness in the theater and shed some of that 2 hours and 43 minutes down if it didn’t feel the need to give us the whole sex scenes with Star. It could have left some to the imagination. I’m pretty sure we could have figured out what happened. It didn’t add to the film, and if anything took away from the film as we waited for the scenes to end. In the first sex scene I was actually more focused on how he didn’t crash while making out with her and driving (I mean not even trying to look at the road), and honestly thought by the end of it she’d find out she caught some type of disease from him. And in the second scene we see her pull out her tampon and ask him if he’s okay with it. Why? Just why? What was I, the audience member, supposed to get from that?
Black Meida Review Collective –http://blackmediareviewcollective.blogspot.com/2016/10/american-honey-review.html