American Honey: Casting Review

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 10.37.35 AMAnother great film uses Cast It throughout the Casting process! In 2014 we had an open call for for the character Star in American Honey. Now let’s see what our intrepid reviewer has to say about the Casting decision!

With the opening scene consisting of our leading lady and her siblings digging in a dumpster for food, American Honey gives us a glimpse into the perils of our youth in the destitute ruins of middle America. British director Andrea Arnold shines with her latest film, taken with a documentary-style approach to the typical coming-of-age film while orchestrating a realistic twist that is sure to put this film in a category all its own.

Star (played by newcomer Sasha Lane) is a troubled 18 yr-old searching for a way out of her mess of a home life. Trapped in an obvious abusive and inappropriate relationship, our hearts break for her immediately as we see a day in her life unfold, from the dumpster to home to pensive close-ups of her unfortunate existence. Star is stuck fulfilling the duties of ‘mother’ in all the wrong ways and although she is gentle with the kids she is taking care of, it’s apparent the responsibility is torture for her. Lane was found by the director on a beach in Florida on spring break, and although this is her debut role, she carries the film with ease and confidence. When she sees a group of kids in a KMART she is immediately drawn to their essence of freedom and fun, something she so desperately wishes for herself. Here she is especially smitten by Jake (Shia LaBeouf), the leader of the pack and slightly older than the rest. After some playful coercing, Star makes a rash decision to leave her life behind for the open road with forgotten children who are just trying to hustle for the means to party.

The kids are traveling across the Midwest scamming people by selling magazine subscriptions that it’s not clear if anyone actually receives, a scheme the film openly acknowledges is antiquated of middle America hopelessness and the desire to make an easy dime. With much reluctance she leaves the children on a what appears to be their out-of-the-picture mother and bolts to her newfound family, while also acting on her erotic chemistry with Jake. She is ‘interviewed’ by Krystal (Riley Keough), the group’s Queen Bee, who soon turns into Star’s enemy when the unfolding of Krystal and Jake’s relationship becomes clear. Keough is a trashy wet dream in bold makeup and confederate flag bikinis, and simply with the mere casting of her (oldest granddaughter of Elvis Presley), Arnold doesn’t turn away from the scary truth of what can come out of a bad upbringing: People like Krystal. She’s hard and fast, even downright cold in a way that makes you shiver for Star every time the two have an interaction. The gang respects her though, as she is the one who doles out spending money and provides a sort of shelter for them, a place to party, let loose and lose their minds.

It is clear from the beginning that although Star is infatuated with Jake and the crew has welcomed her with open arms, she marches to the beat of her own drum and doesn’t necessarily love the lies that are told (‘My dad died in Iraq’, ‘I’m paying for college’) to make a dollar. So to break away from the monotonous scenes of the group just selling magazines, we see Star make a beeline to another path, where she meets eager cowboys and kids who are parented by junkies. This is when the film picks up, when Jake continues to win us over by coming to her rescue. LaBeouf has once again transformed himself for the role, complete with a rat-tail braid and piercings. He reportedly got 12 tattoos through the course of filming, and spent a year on the road with these kids. He is charming and dangerously irresistible, and like most of his roles drives you a bit mad with his recklessness. He and Lane make the film dazzle, even with the excruciatingly long scenes in the van, which could have been edited down to one or two short scenes max. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan deserves abundant praise for the stillness and beauty the movie has amidst the loud chaos of the gloomy road.

American Honey truly captures the down-and-out youth of this country, and most of us have come across these sorts of characters a few times in our lives (perhaps more than we’d like to admit). The unabashed honesty of it draws you in and you forget that it’s just shy of three hours long. It’ll teach you about the lives we turn away from while remembering what it’s like to be young and wild and…free.

 

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Jess

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