A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that American Honey is a coming-of-age road movie. Although it's all about teens and young people, it's packed with extremely mature, adult-oriented content, including full-frontal male nudity, naked breasts, and long, graphic sex scenes. The young characters also drink and smoke (both pot and cigarettes) frequently. Language is extremely strong, with lots of uses of both "f--k" and "s--t," plus some use of the "N" word (mostly in song lyrics). Violence isn't as strong but does include a character drawing a gun and pointing it at someone else, as well as some arguing and roughhousing. Although there aren't really any positive messages or role models here, the movie does view the characters with compassion and understanding, rather than shock or fear.
What's the story?
In AMERICAN HONEY, Star (Sasha Lane, making her movie debut) is an Oklahoma teenager charged with looking after two younger half-siblings. When a confident, fascinating older boy, Jake (Shia LaBeouf), offers Star a chance to travel with him, make some money selling magazines, and see the country, she ditches her wretched family and joins him. Jake is the lead salesman in a large group of disaffected teens, led by the hard, edgy Krystal (Riley Keough). While trying to emotionally connect with the on-again, off-again Jake, Star gets to know her new co-workers and sees a new America that she hadn't known about, both beautiful and devastating.
Is it any good?
With curiosity and compassion, this epic-length coming-of-age story looks at the hard corners of a splintered, dislocated America, but at the same time finds moving moments of beauty. English director Andrea Arnold -- who won an Oscar for a live-action short film -- previously worked this kind of magic in her films Red Road, Fish Tank, and Wuthering Heights. Now she seamlessly brings it across the pond. As she did in Fish Tank, she's cast a charismatic, potent young actress in American Honey's lead role. Lane embodies beauty and longing for connection in a wonderfully organic way.
The long 163-minute running time may seem daunting, but Arnold creates a soft, drifting rhythm that prevents the movie from getting boring or reaching a high pitch too early. And, despite all the swearing, sex, and drugs, Andrea uses her time to show that these things aren't for shock, but are rather coping mechanisms. The kids long for something simpler, but the risks are too great. Back in the 1990s, Kids tried to scare adults with its young characters' over-the-top behavior, but American Honey finds the heart of the matter.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about American Honey's sexual content. What's the intent? Is it about love? Longing for connection? Something else? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Why do you think Star chooses to leave her family and go on the road with people she's just met? Would you have chosen differently?
Does the main group of characters resemble a family in any way? Who would be the mother figure? The father figure?
How does this movie compare to other movies about teens you may have seen? Are the characters sympathetic? Relatable?
- In theaters: September 30, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 27, 2016
- Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, Sasha Lane
- Director: Andrea Arnold
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 163 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, drug/alcohol abuse-all involving teens
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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