Taking its title from a song by Lady Antebellum, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is a roaming tale of teenagers on the road, free of the rules that govern contemporary society, but filled with the angst born out of a life of abandonment and mistrust. The opening scene of American Honey sets the tone. Star (Sasha Stone) 18, is dumpster diving with her two younger siblings. Serially abused by the drunk she calls Daddy and essentially abandoned by her mother, it doesn’t take much convincing when she runs into Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and he asks her to join his business. Quickly, Star is on the road in a van with other destitute teenagers selling magazines subscriptions door-to-door.
Doing whatever it takes to sell subscriptions, the teens fabricate stories about college assignments and scholarship funds. They justify their actions with a Robin Hood mentality. Each night they had over their earnings to their supervisor Krystal (Riley Keough), who does out threats to keep the money coming in and travels in her own convertible, driven by top earner Jake. Krystal’s not really the boss though, some unseen corporate entity is running the show. Star and the rest of the crew don’t care about such things; they’re too busy flirting, smoking and arguing as they pass through everything from small town slums to upper-class housing developments. At 162 minutes, this group of misfits hits every environment possible, often more than once. Soon enough, it becomes clear that these kids are on a road trip to nowhere.
A British filmmaker, Andrea Arnold seems fascinated by the vast landscapes of the heartland, capturing filtered skies and sand filled deserts as the van travels through Oklahoma, Nebraska and beyond. However, Arnold’s characters never move beyond the stereotypical. While Jake shows flashes of charisma, he’s essentially what many would call ‘ white trash,’ while the wealthy people in the housing developments Star encounters in her attempts to sell magazines are nothing more than hedonistic vipers. Arnold seems to have little trouble making these broad assertions, but makes no effort to explore why most of these characters are the way they are, leaving us with minimal payoff.
Other than a believable if occasionally empty, performance from newcomer Sasha Stone, insightful observations are unusual. Almost every angle of teen angst grappled with here has been done better and more concisely before.
Presented in the 1.331 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is solid. The film has a gritty look to it throughout, but the image itself is clean. The color palette has lots of yellows and brown’s that appear to show up as intended. Textures don’t stand out very much, but that’s appropriate, given the overall grittiness of things. overall, this transfer leads to no major complaints.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack serves the film very well. The center focused dialogue is clean and clear throughout. The pop and hip-hop songs the teens listen to while traveling in the van, come through loud and clear. The bass is strong without being overbearing. The limited ambient effects are handled well, never affecting the main action.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Sasha Lane and Riley Keough on American Honey (HD, 6:20) The two actors briefly discuss their experience working on the film.
- Digital Copy.