Film review: American Honey

The bad news – American Honey is not this year’s version of Dazed and Confused. And it’s not this millennium’s Easy Rider, either.

Nov 10, 2016, updated Nov 10, 2016

Writer-director Andrea Arnold’s film is the tale of a girl seduced by a better sound system and directorial cheating into a life of selling magazines as part of a travelling sales crew. As episodic as the worst of Australian cinema, it has Glee, Fame, Hair and Kids written all over it but it still doesn’t work because, pretty soon, you couldn’t care less about anyone in it.

The “youth finds existentialism/themselves” dialogue, that John Hughes legacy, is totally absent: “Do you have any dreams” now and then just doesn’t cut it.

Instead, they dance as if someone is watching to a soundtrack unfairly injected directly into us as if this is all a musical or video clip. Several times. Too many times – we get it: they like to dance.

Despite the boombox residency, I slept for 10 minutes and missed nothing, the only character arc for our heroine being graduating from liberating bees to liberating turtles. Worse, whole elements of plot are contradictory, unexplained or just implausible, but they’re covered by more dancing, sex and aimless fighting, or by passing the camera from the guy who shoulda gone to Specsavers to the one who has Terrence Malick aspirations.

To be fair to our star, Star (really?), what can you expect after meandering over teen stereotyping, the evil Fagan-figure, Christians, The Establishment, a little gay action, a token black and lesbian (both equally obvious), parents who don’t give a shit, yada, yada, yada. I should care but, really, after three hours (and more sunsets than Gone With the Wind) you just wish they’d put their dicks away, put the gun away, sit down, shut up, grow up and put a seat belt on, for Christ’s sake.

The good news? As the only Alice in this chunderland, Sasha Lane has that sort of watchable, innocent/raw edge that carried Katie Jarvis and the rest of us through Fish Tank, a film that at least had a plot, although it wrote itself from the time the (again) evil step-father walked in (“Bet he hits on her” …40 minutes pass … “There you go”). And I applaud the (much-hyped) 4:3 aspect ratio – there’s 20 per cent less to watch.

Maybe see it for a glimpse of what the US is in for after a Trump victory, or just to play “spot the tampon”. Shoulda known it from the title – the only watchable “American Anything” is American Splendour. Save your money, get your popcorn from Johnno and catch that on SBS On Demand instead.

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