A raunchy, rapturous teenage dream, American Honey is indie cinema’s latest attempt to capture the quicksilver magic of what it means to be young and restless and radically alive on screen. And for the most part it succeeds, gorgeously — though it will probably make anyone over 30 feel either mildly outraged or wildly irrelevant.
Like every causeless rebel from Marlon Brando in The Wild One to Harmony Korine’s slack skater kids, Star (vivid newcomer Sasha Lane) is the living, improbably attractive embodiment of youth in revolt. (Styles and slang may change, but cheekbones are forever.) Trapped in nowhere Oklahoma with an oblivious, strung-out mother and two neglected younger siblings, she finds her escape through Jake (a rat-tailed and relentlessly charismatic Shia LaBeouf). He’s recruiting for a ragtag team that crosses the country selling magazines, though more than anything it’s a traveling circus of free-form hedonism, a sovereign state ruled by a flinty-eyed goddess named Krystal (Riley Keough).
Krystal’s rivalry with Star for Jake’s attention is the plot’s most tensile thread, but British-born writer-director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) is hardly interested in conventional storytelling. Over nearly three hours, she lets the movie unfold in a meandering, impressionistic ramble, drenching her largely street-cast actors in dappled light and saturating the soundtrack with the electric pulse of pop songs. Her America is all feral chance and possibility, and it’s intoxicating. A-