This week BUFS is pleased to present American Honey, a Drama/Road Movie by English Academy Award winning filmmaker Andrea Arnold.
American Honey explores subcultural Americana through the eyes of Star (Sasha Lane), an 18-year-old from a broken home trying to free herself from a life of dumpster diving and abuse. After joining a magazine sales crew (read: reckless con artists) on the road led by disciplinary boss Krystal (Riley Keough), Star finds herself in an affair with top salesman Jake (Shia LaBeouf).
Kyrstal’s team travels door-to-door in pursuit of the American dream, but their use of ethically concerning sales techniques sours this quest. The youthful recklessness that engulfs the bizarre group is what lured Star in, it attracted her to Jake and is the driving narrative on this episodic tale. American Honey focuses on the “drifting” feeling most young adults find solace in, and Arnold appears content in documenting that journey without needing any real conclusion. The one message that’s made clear throughout American Honey is that dreams are always out of reach, reinforced through symbolic shots of butterflies, birds, and bugs, it’s apparent that there is something keeping these young Americans down.
Outlining a bleak economic landscape and chasing money down a highway to nowhere in particular, the soaring music and soft lighting in combination with the mostly unprofessional cast matches Arnold’s work to that of Harmoney Korine or Larry Clark. It allows for Star’s sexuality to become a source of both danger and power, refusing to label her a victim or sinner. Young, poor, unloved Star with an instinct for survival and unruly, braided rattail-clad, wounded lost boy Jake who’s far from anyone’s idealized boyfriend somehow result in a sweet and genuine relationship. She is unpredictable, does whatever she wants regardless of the consequences and lives on instinct. It allows her hustling job of selling magazines to look like she’s selling dreams. Star is removed from any punishment or rescuing making her love story, of sorts, messy and yet tender.
American Honey is Arnold’s first film set in America, driven by sex, hip-hop, and insect imagery The film looks beyond contemporary life and into the wishful thinking, ignorance, and poor judgement that fuels the American dream. Her approach to social inequality in a foreign country develops into a long and winding class-conscious road movie. Being from the U.K. helped this objective tone taken in the film while still exploring the styles of her previous films like Fish Tank. It gave Arnold the scope to truly capture the rawness and impulsivity of the character’s lifestyle.
American Honey screens Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Landmark Theatres, Pen Centre. Visit www.brocku.ca/bufs for details.
-Meagan Forde, Contributor