The 2016 movie American Honey follows Star, played by Sasha Lane, and a band of teens as they travel the United States selling magazine subscriptions door to door. Directed by Andrea Arnold, the seemingly pointless movie can speak a lot to what it takes in order to find oneself. Embedded within the movie is the irony of wanting to find out more about one’s true identity in the world by joining a group who focuses on anything but the world they live in.
The complex and yet unknown background of some of the characters evokes the viewers’ curiosity. You want to know where these people come from and why they’re there. The duality of the characters makes you question whether or not you actually like who they are as people. They’re a group of rowdy reckless teenagers who have made a series of questionable choices; but to one another, they’re family.
The teens moving across the states are a perfect representation of adolescence, with their unstoppable desire to be moving forward in life. Even when the group stops overnight at a motel, they don’t do so without taking dance breaks or chasing each other around. Watching this movie, you might feel bad for these teens put in unfortunate situations, but you also feel empowered by them. You start to root for Star when she finally sells a magazine, or for Jake, played by Shia LabBeouf, when he stops being controlled by his boss.
Star and Jake are the only characters we get to learn a lot about. Their relationship upset me; it’s frustratingly rare to see a strong female lead without a love interest. However, I understood it was essential to show a change in Star’s persona and to make her a well-rounded character. Whether you realize it or not, Star is looking to find herself. Though the relationship of Star and Jake carries a sensual layer to it from the beginning, we understand that it isn’t until they run away together that Star has really “found herself.’’
An interesting aspect of the movie is the ambiguity of its time frame. Given cues such as Rae Sremmund’s No Type being played and sung along to in car rides, one might assume that the movie is set in 2016. However, the teens seem to dress and follow trends of those in the early 2000s. I found myself nostalgic for a time I barely lived through. Arnold did an excellent job of making me feel like I am right in the car with the characters as they sing along to songs or get nervous before knocking at someone’s door.
Admittedly, the film kind of wore me down in the end. The repetitiveness of the teens waking up, selling magazines and staying at some low grade motel was dull. I wonder if Arnold was trying to speak to the monotonous lives of millions of American people.
Unfortunately, American Honey didn’t end up making much money. The movie budget was 3.5 million dollars and it had a box office of 1.8 million dollars. I understand the imperfections of the movie had a significant effect on its success.
To conclude, although American Honey carries depth and a deep nostalgia for a time I barely knew, it could’ve been so much better.