Andrea (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) Arnold’s bold new feature dramatizes the troubles of the sub-working-class poor in a way few others have attempted. Fueled by electric performances from Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Sasha Lane, it portrays a lost generation as they stumble from one hollowed-out town to the next in pursuit of something to hold onto.
Star (Lane) lives on the fringes of American society, resorting to dumpster diving while caring for two young kids. When she meets Jake (LaBeouf) dancing in the aisles of a KMart, the two have an instantaneous attraction. Making a quick decision, she leaves her charges in their mother’s care, joins Jake on a minibus that promises her a job, and winds up traveling with a “mag crew” — a ragtag collection of runaways and misfits who work door to door selling magazine subscriptions. Spending their nights partying in rundown motels and their days peddling to anyone gullible enough to believe their fictional hard-luck stories, the crew is bonded by youth, liquor, and the road. When they find time to steal away, Jake and Star are ecstatic in each other’s company. But when their romance offends the queen bee (Riley Keogh), Star’s precarious place in the gang — and in society — becomes clear. Arnold brings a verité-style realism to the motley crew, who is played for the most part by non-professional actors. Propelled by a dynamic soundtrack that ranges from E-40 to Rihanna to Bruce Springsteen, American Honey is a portrait of America from the bottom up, depicting a world that exists parallel to ours but that we rarely see.
(UK, USA / 2016 / Written and Directed by Andrea Arnold)
R / 163 mins.