There’s so much good that could’ve come out of 2016’s American Honey. It’s a modern day road film that would have made Ken Kesey proud. In fact, the whole thing might make a lot more sense if it had taken place in the 1960s.
And much like the Merry Band of Pranksters, American Honey finds 18-year-old girl, Star (Sasha Lane), traveling across the country in a van with about a dozen other misfit youths. They make a living selling magazine subscriptions, and it’s as odd as it sounds. To the point where the entire thing is almost fantasy.
To add to the unrealistic feel, the whole movie seems to exist in a world with no police or laws of any kind. The kids go about like rowdy, rambunctious heathens–drinking and doing drugs in an overloaded vehicle, holding bonfires in public parking lots, and squatting in empty houses all over the country.
It’s a fun concept to build a film universe around, but it’s merely idealistic. And why are so many people letting these homeless-looking hedonists into their homes without any question? It’s all very odd.
To make matters worse, the young lady who plays Star gives a pretty stiff performance. But she looks the part, so it’s convincing enough. She falls in love with Shia LaBeouf’s character, Jake, who’s one of the top salesmen in this traveling pyramid-scheme. It’s unclear whether or not he likes her back or if he’s just selling her on that as well.
LaBeouf gives yet another brilliant performance and is the undeniable highlight of the film–mostly by default. It’s just too bad it’s almost all in vain.
The nearly-three hour saga of a movie surprisingly keeps our attention for the majority of it, but ends up just insulting us in the end with a conclusion that doesn’t make it worth our time.
At first glance American Honey has all the makings of a good art film. The raw filmmaking style will have any cinephile earnestly intrigued. It’s just too bad the story ends up nowhere.