Although the argument's already been bashed and heckled far and wide, I want to grab ahold of Andrea Arnold's new film American Honey and light its firecracker ass shake it violently, hiss and sisssss and boom and bahhh, in the face of anybody dumb enough to argue that The Movies Are Dead. The movies are alive, hopping and alive with sound of music. Cussin', bees banging on screen-doors, and music, even sometimes in that exact order.
In this case that music starts and ends with Rihanna finding love in a hopeless place, and why not? If French Lady Marion Cotillard can dance with a killer whale by way of Katy Perry then why can't we find hope for the centenarian art form of cinema via a Barbadian pop chanteuse spilling from the tinny speakers of a discount store in some Midwestern somewhere-or-other? Pop was good enough for Andy Warhol, and it's good enough for the red-white-and-syrupy-blue of Santa Claus sprawled across Coca-Cola cans, and so it's plenty good enough for me.
And Shia LaBeouf, all rat-tail and ripped tee-shirt and grass-stains shakin' his hips, has never seemed more straight-up patriotic - hell, he gives Megan Fox leaning over a car-hood a run for her money in the sex-pot Americana sweepstakes. They're both creatures you should never bring home to Mom n' Pops, but sweet and forbidden as a steaming cherry pie on the windowsill all the same. Star, our Star, (the spellbinding newcomer Sasha Lane) never stood a chance against the siren's song of this pied-piper of scuzz and heartbreak and wolf-calls in the dusky twilight, and we're right there with her the whole way. Bad boyfriends and questionable decisions never tasted quite so sacchariferous.
And Andrea Arnold knows we can find love and fascination here, hopeless or not. She believes in us. Her absolute faith is us, the audience, to keep up with a candied hardness - emotionally and narratively - keeps Honey, a long movie of morsels doled out about sad situations, alive like you wouldn't believe for a nearly three hour run-time. Every review I've read of this movie does mention its run-time, but to my thankful surprise it's been with a sort of awe - how can so much of something so much keeps its fizz right through its final seconds?
Well like Wonder Bread and Yellow Mustard, the chemical-perfection's baked right into the meat of the thing. Arnold, incapable of judgment, mainlining empathy like a motherfucker, can conjure deliciousness out of whatever she finds in the kitchen. If it's a rotten chicken carcass and pixie sticks, or some long slow and sticky barbecue sauce poured over a southward-bound tequila worm - she's the Chopped Basket of movie-makers. It's all the fixins. Pistol-whipped to perfection. My teeth positively ache for another helping of American Honey; I wanna eat until I pass right out. And is there anything more American than that?