Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sasha Lane, Riley Keough, Shia LaBeouf, McCaul Lombardi, Arielle Holmes, Crystal B. Ice, Verronikah Ezell, Chad McKenzie Cox, Garry Howell, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Raymond Coalson, Isaiah Stone, Dakota Powers, Shawna Rae Mosely, Christopher David Wright
Written by: Andrea Arnold
Directed by: Andrea Arnold
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, drug/alcohol abuse-all involving teens
Running Time: 163
Date: 10/07/2016

American Honey (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Honey' Mooning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With curiosity and compassion this epic-length coming-of-age story looks at the hard, harrowing corners of a splintered, dislocated America, but at the same time finds moving moments of earthy beauty. English director Andrea Arnold — who won an Oscar for a live action short film — worked this kind of magic in her feature films Red Road, Fish Tank, and Wuthering Heights, and now seamlessly brings it across the pond. As she did with Fish Tank, she has discovered a charismatic, potent young actress for American Honey's lead role; Sasha Lane embodies beauty and longing for connection in a wonderfully organic way.

Star (Lane) is an Oklahoma teenager charged with looking after two younger half-siblings. When a confident, fascinating older boy, Jake (Shia LaBeouf), offers her a chance to travel with him, make some money selling magazines, and see the country, she ditches her wretched family and joins him. Jake is the lead salesman in a large group of disaffected teens, led by the hard, edgy Krystal (Riley Keough). While trying to emotionally connect with the on-again, off-again Jake, Star gets to know her new co-workers and sees a new vision of America that she hadn't known about, both beautiful and devastating.

The movie's length, 163 minutes, is off-putting, but Arnold creates a soft, drifting rhythm that prevents the movie from growing tiresome or reaching a high pitch too early. And, despite the high levels of swearing, sex, and drugs, Andrea uses her time to discover that these things are not for shock, but are rather coping mechanisms. The kids long for something simpler, but the risks are too great. A movie like Kids (1995) tried to scare grownups with its young characters' behavior, but American Honey finds the heart of the matter.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release preserves, like Arnold's previous movie Wuthering Heights, the film's old-fashioned 1:1.33 aspect ratio, so it doesn't exactly fill out or explode from your TV. But it is still a great-looking movie, fine for a viewing at home. The only extra is a brief interview with the two main actresses, Lane and Keough, as well as a digital copy.

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