American Honey

Screening Tuesday November 8th at 7pm

I know you spent your childhood waiting to be discovered by some big time Hollywood talent agent.  It’s okay, you don’t have to lie.  But if you’ve let that dream gather dust, do not give up hope!  Because that is essentially what happened to American Honey star Sasha Lane.  Feeling that her life was missing something, Lane followed a hunch and wound up on a beach in Miami where she was approached by the film’s director, Andrea Arnold.  Arnold convinced Lane to extend her vacation, hoping that Lane was the girl she’d been looking for.  At the end of this chance encounter, Lane had nabbed the lead role in Arnold’s American Honey, despite her utter lack of acting experience.

American Honey is a fresh new film about a crew of wild and young magazine subscription sellers.  It won the 2016 Special Jury Prize at the Cannes and has earned dozens of dazzling reviews since.  As the British director’s first film set in America, American Honey impressively captures the nitty gritty truth of this generation’s Americana.  This is more than a film or a plain old coming of age story.  This is an experience, and one that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Just from watching the trailer, the first things that struck me were the film’s soundtrack and aesthetic.  The music is so well suited to the film that it honestly feels like another character in the narrative.  Music is such a big part of the world the characters are living in that, in a way, it feels like the music is reaching out and pulling the audience in.  Every song is such a jam that the whole duration of the film feels like a party. As for the way the movie looks, and I know this is going to sound weird, but I would love to jump through the screen and live in the world of American Honey.  I know that they live in Motel 6’s and drive a creepy white van around, but I don’t care.  I’d still do it because Arnold has made these scenes heart-wrenchingly beautiful.  I never knew that a stretch of strip malls and dirty, pot-holed parking lots could offer such a mouth wateringly enticing lifestyle.  Every scene glows like a trap music-esque Lana del Rey and it’s got me diving in head-first.

Now on to things you can’t really tell from the trailer: Robbie Ryan, the cinematographer, will have you smitten within minutes.  This movie is unapologetic and astoundingly intimate.  Every scene is wild and bold, captivating and stunning, electric and haunting.  Seriously, aside from the fact that this film is just addictive to look at, you will be sucked into scenes so personal, you probably shouldn’t be there.  But that’s the beauty of it.  The story holds so much more than you initially think it’s going to.  

Next up: the characters.  Holy cannoli is this a cast of gems.  First, Shia Labeouf.  I know you’re already sold, but I’m going to keep talking about the cast anyways.  Shia plays Jake, a deeply confusing, but even more charming second hand man to Riley Keough’s hard-ass ringleader Krystal.  After those two, you won’t know any of the other actors because a lot of the cast, just like Lane who stars as…Star, were plucked off the streets by Arnold.  I had the fortune of seeing this film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September and a lot of the cast came to the screening.  Afterwards, they lined up on the stage, bubbling and bouncing, as star struck by us as we were by them.

The great thing about this cast is that they are a random collection of people–normal people like you and me (plus Shia LaBeouf)–who Arnold thought would vibe.  And they vibed hard.  The cast has such an infectious bond that reads as well as it does on screen because it’s genuine.  They really did bop around the country to film and they grew incredibly close along the way.  After the screening at TIFF, the actors and Arnold stopped in the middle of an interview question to have an impromptu group hug and everyone in the audience just admired it.

The thing about this cast and the characters they portray is that they are so relatable.  Even though I’ve ever left behind my life and my family to drive around the country and sell magazine subscriptions with a handful of strangers, I honestly felt so close to these characters.  Each one is so vivacious that they amplify the pulse at the core of this movie.  They exquisitely capture what it is to grow up in America.  To have your eyes opened.  To face the class system head on.  To balance responsibility and freedom, maturity and immaturity, innocence and the hard-hitting reality.  This is a movie that the young adults of this generation will hold near and dear as a testament to our time.  Our reality.  But there’s also this incredible timelessness to it that speaks to the movie’s undeniable humanity.

And that’s what is essentially at the root of this entire movie.  In the end, it’s just a gorgeous, electrifying, exciting, movie about what it truly means to grow up.  And if you’re worried about the length, honestly, the time flies by.  At the end of the film, I was devastated that it was over and had to remind myself how to move.  It felt like a Dementor had been sucking my face to the screen for the past three hours and in every single way, I was loving it.  I honestly can’t say enough about American Honey (obviously).  This is a film that everyone should watch.  Don’t pass up the opportunity!  This film is simply immaculate.  It is intoxicating.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s gritty.  It’s intimate.  It’s endlessly hopeful, and surprisingly endearing.  It’s true art.  Real and raw and honest, the way films should be.

I know I sound overly obsessive, but it’s because I am overly obsessed.  Nothing I say could do it justice.  Just take my word that this movie is superb and watch it.  Seriously guys:


Emilee Bae (’18) is a Film/Media Studies and Classics double major.  On campus, she is the Event Co-Chair of the Film Club and Assistant VP of Risk for Alpha Chi Omega.  She loves all kinds of movies, but is most drawn to independent films and book adaptations.  After college, she hopes to write and direct.