Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Andrea Arnold's AMERICAN HONEY--with an able cast of kids--hits Florida and elsewhere

Having enjoyed the work of British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Red Road and Fish Tank), I looked forward to her latest movie and her first to be made here in America, AMERICAN HONEY. And for the first half of this long and rambling road trip that features a kind of very low-end Capitalism at work, I certainly did. Ms Arnold and her casting directors (Brit Lucy Pardee of Attack the Block) and Yank Jennifer Venditti (Lost River) have come up with a fine group of kids who play the group of kids that grounds the film. Each is odd and specific and real.

Ms Arnold, shown at left, has also gifted us with a beautiful and charismatic new actress named Sasha Lane (on poster, top, and two photos below) who will surely be seen again if she chooses to pursue this new career. Ms Lane has a face and body from which one does not want to remove one's eyes. And she is moment to moment so emotionally "there" that she helps fill this movie with life and meaning.

The rest of the cast includes the likes of  Shia LaBeouf (below, right) and Riley Keough (below, left) as the "leaders" of this pack of kids whose job it is to comb our country's south and southwest, selling magazine subscriptions. (Yes! This, at a time when print magazine are mostly dead and dying. But no one, neither the kids nor the would-be suckers to whom they're selling the subscriptions, ever brings up this fact.)

This is but the first of a host of believability problems the movie has. Yet so feisty and so much fun (for a time, at least) are these kids and their keepers that we let it pass. Ms Arnold's oeuvre so far would indicate that one of her favored themes is the resilience of teenagers, despite severe problems economically and with their irresponsible parents. So it is here.

This makes for some moving moments along the way, and Ms Lane is particularly adept at making us feel these without ever seeming to jerk us around. The movie and its plot, however certainly do. As writer and director, Arnold simply leaves out any logical consequences to our protagonists' behavior -- which grows more and more crazy as the movie progresses.

The filmmaker might have at least once thought to have the cops show up at one of the motels' the kids stay in and tell them to quiet down (if not haul them off to the nearest jail). These kids rob their marks of jewelry, too, but -- hey -- no problem. The most ridiculous scene arrives as LaBeouf brandishes and shoots off a gun and steals a car from some rich and, from what we can tell, rather powerfully-connected men. No problem. No consequence.

As the movie goes on and one for two hours and 43 minutes, this makes for quite a bit of blather and a near complete loss of credibility. If you buy into American Honey and stay there, you'll either have checked the logical portion of your brain at the door or will need to treat the movie as some kind of fantasy. We do get a couple of  hot sex scenes between Lane and LaBeouf (above), and a very interesting scene in which Lane attempts to play prostitute to a needy but decent oil rig worker.

There is good stuff here, intermittently, but I just can't help but wonder why Arnold didn't think out her movie with a bit more rigor and the kind of logic that would insist on a more honest and encompassing look at this entire situation. From A24 and having already opened in our major cultural centers, American Honey lands this Friday, October 14, here in South Florida in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Boca Raton theatres. Click here then click on GET TICKETS in the upper left-hand corner to find a theater near you.

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