In my last post, I noted that good movies were either character-driven or story-driven. What I left off was that the best ones are both — which is where I hoped American Honey was headed. There’s a lot of promise here early on, and I admit I was fairly well stuck on American Honey.
My criticism of Beasts of the Southern Wild was “these folks live in squalor, but they relish it.” The same holds true here. Where American Honey succeeds, in contrast, is in continuously putting our young heroine in risky situations. But the movie fails by the same count — it doesn’t know where to take those storylines. It skirts obvious but bold developments in favor of mundane relationship issues among this very loose group of young adults.
Still though, like Beasts, we have a glimpse into a world of impoverished youth which I found mostly fascinating. There’s a vivid intimacy and fresh honesty here. But this is an overlong movie — nearly 3 hours — and it begins to repeat itself. As always, story matters. At the end of American Honey, you’ll likely be left asking, ‘so what?’ — and worse ‘what could have been?’
A couple more notes: I didn’t pick up on the square frame from seeing the trailer multiple times, but it sure was obvious on my screen: a completely unnecessary, distracting gimmick. Regarding the film’s star, Sasha Lane: expect to see more of her. Hopefully continuing with interesting roles, but don’t be surprised to see her in superhero costume. 6/10