Tag Archives: Shia LaBeouf

American Honey (2016)

6 Nov

Director Andrea Arnold‘s latest film, the aptly titled American Honeyis a thoughtful coming-of-age drama told through the lens of an impoverished teenager named Star (Sasha Lane).

Star is an unemployed 18-year-old who spends her time wandering the streets of rural Oklahoma and looking for food with her two young children. It becomes immediately apparent from the film’s opening (which features her passing a whole chicken from the bottom of a dumpster into the hands of a toddler) that Star is a societal outcast; a misfit who has become so accustomed to life on the streets that any chance of gaining employment or schooling is non-existent.

She soon crosses paths with Jake (Shia LaBeouf), an impulsive bohemian salesman who makes his living by finding recruits to help him go door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions. Jake, who becomes infatuated by Star, presents to her an opportunity to leave the street life behind in favor of joining a vagabond group of young adults who are traveling throughout the southern states. “It’s a business opportunity…” he confidently says, “We explore America, we go door-to-door, we party.”

What starts out as a story of Star shedding her childhood and coming to terms with her adult independance gradually becomes a cinematic display of millennial counterculture. Andrea Arnold’s restrained direction yields a “fly on the wall” approach to the story, meticulously capturing every realistic detail of the lifestyle these young adults lead in their search of the American dream.  We get a diverse cross-section of rural American life through American Honey; in one scene we see Jake and Star make a door pitch in an affluent white evangelical neighborhood – in another we are witnesses to the hyper-masculinized working class culture of Dakota oil fields. Each moment feels so geuinely nuanced and rich; Arnold presents the narrative to us casually through the earnest eyes of Star that most of the film feels less like a movie and more like a documentary of sorts. One doesn’t get a sense that these are actors on a stage (even with a mega-movie franchise star like LaBeouf who fits his role like a glove) so much as these are real people living their lives out on screen.

The end result is a film that gradually immerses you in its details and becomes more hypnotic with its imagery as it progresses. However, at a running time of over 160 minutes, the film’s aesthetic wears a bit thin, (there are only so many shots of the group listening to hip-hop and smoking pot in the back of a 15-passenger van that you can get away with) and some scenes tend to drag more than others. Still, the effects of watching American Honey linger on after the credits roll, and Arnold does a great job of avoiding unnecessary melodrama and creating an authentically vivid filmic experience.

Bottom Line: Though it desperately needs a shorter edit, American Honey is an immersive and detailed look at the effects of contemporary American poverty and one that feels both refreshingly ordinary and beautifully cinematic.

Rating: 7/10

Film recipe: White Girl + Gummo + Spring Breakers

5 Films I’m Looking Forward To In 2013

20 Dec

With a look ahead, 2013 is shaping up to be great. So far, it looks like there are a hearty amount of sci-fi epics planned including Oblivion, After Earth, Elysium,and Pacific Rim. There are also a good amount sequels in the works expanding franchises like Anchorman, 300, The Hunger Games, The Hobbit, Scary Movie, Star Trek, The Hangover, GI JoeDespicable Me and Monsters Inc.  And then of course we have the slew of remakes including The Evil Dead, Carrie, Robocob, and the superhero films The Wolverine, Thor 2, Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 all lined up for a 2013 release.

Below are my picks for the five movies I’m most excited about and why they made the list:

1-   Gangster Squad    Why? Originally planned for this year, WB decided to halt the release until after the new year in order to tone down some of the violent content.  If the all star cast (Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin) isn’t enough to reel you in, think of this as sort of the “L.A. Confidential” of the new Millennium.  The trailer looks stunning and with such great talent under a great director, you can’t go wrong. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about an upcoming neo-noir flick.  Release Date –  Jan 11th

2-  Stoker    Why? Mention psychological thriller and Chan-Wook Park in the same sentence and I’m sold.  Nicole Kidman practically guarantees a knock-out performance, but I’m interested in the supporting work from newcomers Mia Wichowski and Matthew Goode. Release Date – Feb 28th

3-  Untitled Terrence Malick Project    Why?  The mysterious director has kept tight wraps under this project – which apparently doesn’t even have a working title yet – but confirmed actors include Christian Bale, Cate Blanchet, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Benicio Del Toro, Holly Hunter, Rooney Mara and Florence Welch – WOW!!  Though Malick apparently has directed four films to come out next year, this one in particular has me overflowing with curiosity.  What we know is that the story is set around the Austin, TX music scene and involves some romantic drama of sorts. The rest is a mystery.  Release Date – Late Summer or Fall 2013

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2062700/

4-  Nymphomaniac    Why? Shia LaBeouf is leaving his Disney and family-friendly roots aside to work with one of the most well-respected art-house directors of our time: Lars Von Trier.  Expect full male nudity in the first installment of Von Trier’s three-part NC-17 project.   Release Date – Fall 2013

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1937390/

5-  A Good Day To Die Hard    Why?  Cause it’s Die Hard 5! When have we ever needed an excuse to see Bruce Willis kick some ass?  Release Date – Feb 14th