"Overlong, Extremely Crude Character-Driven Drama"
What You Need To Know:
AMERICAN HONEY is an overlong drama about young people morally and spiritually adrift. Writer/Director Andrea Arnold has created an interesting scenario but indulges in long scenes and random countryside visuals for much too long throughout her movie. That said, the lead performances are extremely effective. Overall, however, AMERICAN HONEY is a grim, depressing movie with too much immoral behavior (including nearly constant foul language, lying and substance abuse), to be worthwhile.
(PaPaPa, B, AbAb, LLL, VV, SSS, NN, AAA, DDD, MMM) Very strong immoral pagan worldview with some moral elements and undertones implying that immoral and at times disturbing behavior is as a sad commentary on young lives adrift without guidance from God or family, plus a brief dialogue exchange that’s Anti-God; foul language abounds throughout the movie, both in the dialogue and in the often-obscene rap music the characters listen to while driving, including at 350 obscenities (including 200 “f” words or more) and 11 strong profanities (including at least one blasphemy), plus several dialogue exchanges center on graphic sexual imagery and a scene implying urinating outdoors; two brief but strong and scary moments of violence includes group’s leader encourages two men to fight (one is shown naked in every except for his genitals and beats the other man so severely he winds up covered in blood); very strong, strong and light sexual content includes two lengthy, graphic sex scenes, graphic sexual dialogue/references, man rubs lotion on woman’s bottom clothed in a thong, one woman is about to fornicate with two different men in her hotel room, a disturbing scene where female protagonist desperate to raise money agrees to prostitute herself with an oil rig worker, but it’s not quite clear what they do in the shadows; rear female nudity and upper male nudity in two sex scenes, woman answers hotel room door with one breast exposed, and rear female nudity in scene where it’s implied female protagonist has urinated outdoors; alcohol use/abuse and rampant drunkenness throughout; rampant marijuana use throughout, plus it’s revealed poor girl and her siblings are under the care of a meth-addicted mother; and, very strong miscellaneous immorality such as magazine-selling operation is a scam with the sellers basically lying for every sale they make and it’s implied they never will supply the subscriptions, man reveals he’s stolen tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gold and jewelry out of people’s homes and is saving it to fence and raise money for a home someday, man steals three innocent men’s car and money, protagonist’s mother is irresponsible and meth addicted, and meth-addicted mother’s 5-year-old child recites vile lyrics about killing children.
AMERICAN HONEY is a long, drifting yet strange character-driven drama about an aimless 18-year-old woman who escapes an abusive relationship by joining a ragtag group of young adults driving cross-country and scamming people with magazine subscription sales. Despite a light moral undertone at times, AMERICAN HONEY has a strong pagan, immoral worldview with rampant foul language, lewd content, and substance abuse plus a brief but strong Anti-God dialogue exchange.
The movie mainly follows a hopelessly adrift, yet inherently kind-hearted, young woman named Star (Sasha Lane), who’s stuck in life watching the two young children of a relative, while trapped with a drug-abusing, lecherous boyfriend. One day while shopping for food, she sees a ragtag group of teenagers and twentysomethings walk into a Walmart-type store and start dancing all over the place, and she locks eyes with one of their leaders, a guy named Jake played by Shia LaBeouf.
Jake offers Star a job as part of the magazine subscription-sales crew who travel in a van around the country. She at first declines, then suddenly decides to run away after the group, leaving the children she’s watching with their real mother.
On the road, Star drifts with the group from town to town and becomes particularly close with Jake. She winds up sleeping with him under the assumption it’s a relationship when in fact he’s just exploiting her and other women on the trip. The real boss is Krystal (Riley Keough), a morally bankrupt woman, who has ruthless control of everyone and emotionally manipulates them.
Most of the movie consists of random episodes of interactions, such as Star’s connection with three cowboy businessmen, who are about to treat her to a cookout when Jake shows up and robs them of cash and their car. Also, Star has a disturbing encounter with an oil worker, who pays her $1000 to engage in sexual behavior with him.
For all the episodes of immoral behavior and the rollercoaster relationship Star tries with Jake, Star and the others never seem to find their grounding in life. They are clearly spiritually and morally adrift, so sometimes the movie appears to be presenting all of this immoral and disturbing behavior not as a positive thing, but as a sad commentary on lives adrift without guidance from God or family. Also, Star has some goodness in her under the surface. Her character had to find her own way in life after her mom died from a meth addiction when Star was only 15. Star also shows great kindness when she finds other little children stuck in the same situation. Finally, she complains throughout the movie about the deception involved in the sales team’s pitches.
Overall, AMERICAN HONEY is an overlong, drifting portrayal of a young woman adrift. Writer/Director Andrea Arnold has created an interesting scenario for a movie but indulges in long scenes and random countryside visuals for far too long throughout her movie. That said, the lead performances by Lane, LeBeouf and Keough are all effective, and the movie definitely shows a world and characters viewers have never seen before.
Overall, however, AMERICAN HONEY is a grim, depressing movie with too much immoral behavior to be justified viewing for all but the most extremely vigilant and discerning of adult viewers.