Saturday, June 10, 2023


May 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

According to many pop-culture historians, the cultural revolution of the ’60s began when writer Ken Keasey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) set off on a transcontinental trip with his band of Merry Pranksters on a school bus covered with psychedelic patterns from La Honda, California, near San Francisco, to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The trippy escapade — Keasy’s “Magic Bus” was fueled as much by LSD as it was by gasoline — was intended to make a statement about freedom, drugs, patriotism, idealism, and rock and roll, and it succeeded, eventually becoming the subject of Tom Wolfe’s best seller, The Electric Kool-Ade Acid Test and a 2011 documentary film, The Magic Trip. Looking at Andrea Arnold’s latest feature, American Honey, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, it would be hard for baby boomers not to compare the Merry Pranksters with the disaffected young millenials in the new movie. But as outrageous as the Pranksters appeared to be in the context of the early ’60s, they now seem downright innocent compared with the gaggle of hedonistic petty crooks in Honey who travel by van from town to town, door to door, coaxing middle-aged yahoos to buy magazine subscriptions that they don’t want, supposedly to help pay for the kids’ education, then stealing from them if they get past the front door. Although the film runs longer than it takes the misfit youths to travel from one town to another — an often tedious 2 hours and 42 minutes — there is barely a thread of a plot to hold it all together. The length, however appears to be of little concern to several critics. The film, which stars Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Sasha Lane, “works best as a poignant character study,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. Eric Kohn in speaks of director Arnold’s “command of the movie’s meandering structure.” But Slant magazine’s Sam C. Mac, who calls the film a “failure,” observes: “At maybe half or a quarter of the length, American Honey might’ve gotten by on this surface-level vision.” Another online critic, Craig Skinner in, who regards the film as a “real disappointment,” faults in particular the frequent sing-along sequences (the actors sing-along, mostly to rap recordings, not the audience) that drive up the running time of the movie, “becoming more and more tiresome as the film drags on.” But Jonathan Romney in the British trade magazine Screen, is willing to cut Arnold some slack on the film’s length. “There‚Äôs probably a stronger, tighter film in here,” he writes, “but fair game at least to Arnold in her commitment to following the winding back roads of filmic experiment rather than the well-mapped highway of storytelling.”