Explore Self Discovery Across America's Vast Landscape in American Honey

Image: American Honey

Image: American Honey

Laura Piety

At a runtime of nearly three hours, you’d be forgiven for thinking that American Honey had the potential to become indulgent in places, but you’d be wrong. From the moment we meet Star (a wonderful revelation in newcomer Sasha Lane), to her adoption by a transient mag crew, and subsequent criss-crossing of the American landscape selling subscriptions (and herself), it’s impossible not to be captured. As the winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, and directed by Andrea Arnold (Wuthering HeightsFish Tank), American Honey is a tale of self discovery and dichotomy - hope and despair, love and loneliness, confidence and vulnerability, and not just for the characters, but Arnold herself. She spent hours winding through countless American states during research and pre-production, “[The] trips [21,000 miles in prep phase] were also about connecting with myself," Arnold admits. "Self-actualization became one of American Honey's strongest themes."

 


As the winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, and directed by Andrea Arnold, American Honey is a tale of self discovery and dichotomy - hope and despair, love and loneliness, confidence and vulnerability. 


 

This journey of self-actualization is clear in Star's character arc, but also draws parallels with Lane's own personal growth that happened throughout production. The fact that there was no finished script (it was being re-written on the road, with Lane receiving pages on a daily basis) compounded this. "All Andrea told me was that it was a strong female role, and that she got the idea from the New York Times article," Lane explains. "I was supposed to represent crew kids and their lifestyle as a newcomer just starting out in their world as we journey through America."

Shia LeBoeuf complements Lane as Jake, the charismatic, if a little off-kilter, crew manager, in perhaps his most magnetic performance to date; while Riley Keough is the no-shitting-me Krystal, the mag crew’s american-flag-bikini-and-fake-tan-wearing head honcho. The rest of the cast pretty much played out their own realities, and consisted of kids Arnold picked off the streets, or grey Walmart parking lots, from “Katniss" a former exotic dancer who once worked in a mag crew, to "Riley" who was spotted in a Save-A-Lot grocery store. As Lane admits, “Most of those scenes were just us listening to music and chilling, talking how we talked with each other in real life. Everyone was pretty much themselves on this movie — that's their true personalities you see on camera, which makes it so beautiful."

 


The film is punctuated by trap, hip hop, country and pop tracks that underline the narrative throughout, perhaps none more so than Lane and Leboeuf’s meet cute inside a nondescript Walmart, an encounter accompanied by the pulsing beats of Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “We Found Love”.


 

It would be remiss not to mention two key elements that elevate American Honey from an insightful character driven film, to a poignant, immersive experience: the soundtrack and cinematography. The film is punctuated by trap, hip hop, country and pop tracks that underline the narrative throughout, perhaps none more so than Lane and Leboeuf’s meet cute inside a nondescript Walmart, an encounter accompanied by the pulsing beats of Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. Meanwhile, the Director of Photography, Robbie Ryan (Wuthering HeightsPhilomena), beautifully captures America's broken vistas alongside his intimate character portrayals - conveying the haunting destitution and a generosity of spirit that runs through the DNA of the movie. In American Honey a picture - or a still - really is worth a thousand words. 

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