AMERICAN HONEY – Review by Susan Granger

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British filmmaker Andrea Arnold finds cinematic inspiration in a group of young American drifters, those tattered, tattooed, often defiant, yet seemingly aimless teenagers that lurk around places like Walmart. One of them is abused, 18 year-old Star (Sasha Lane) who deposits her two younger half-siblings in the care of their disaffected mother before blasting out of Muskogee, Oklahoma, with a group of hard-partying rowdies who drift around in a white van, hustling questionable magazine subscriptions.

Catching her eye, charismatic Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is the alpha male, who explains, “We don’t only sell magazines. We explore America.”

He travels separately in a convertible with “mean girl” Krystal (Riley Keough, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter), who manages the eclectic, almost-feral crew: Corey (McCaul Lombardi), a surfer-dude who whips out his penis for kicks, and “Star Wars”-obsessed Pagan (Arielle Holmes).

In perhaps the most strange, yet memorable scene, Star courts danger, taking off with three wealthy, middle-aged Texans, wearing white Stetsons, in their fancy car to rake in some quick cash.

Like her Oscar-winning short “Wasp” (2003) and “Fish Tank” (2009), writer/director Andrea Arnold works closely with cinematographer Robbie Ryan to create a Diane Arbus-like, cinema-verite atmosphere, displaying a somewhat disconcerting fixation on bugs.

For two hours and 42-minutes, Arnold focuses on these disaffected misfits, traveling through the Midwestern heartland, taking the title from a song by Lady Antebellum and featuring singalongs with Rihanna and Ludacris.

Discovered by Andrea Arnold on a beach, Texan newcomer Sasha Lane exudes sexuality, eager to viscerally explore all of her senses and experience intoxicating sensations, while Shia LaBeouf personifies the sleazy, hotheaded con artist who will, inevitably, disappoint.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “American Honey” is a subtly scrappy 6, a rambling, often repetitive road picture depicting a slice of Americana.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.