American Honey

american honey

Popular culture is deceiving. Perhaps it is no fault of its own, since massively consumed entertainment has to provide diversion for audiences; the deceit is implicit, so it is not meant to be taken too seriously. A quick glance at the current social landscape, however, indicate that celebrities and songs and Netflix originals hold as much sway over the cultural conversation as they probably never had before. Popular culture doesn’t become an escape, but a pep talk; something that inspires, teaches and sells dreams that will never come true.

In American Honey, as sultry and hypnotizing as films can be, the teenagers selling magazine subscriptions door to door across the American Midwest have more in common than just a fractured home life and a penchant for booze and sex. It seems that while their parents, or parent surrogates, were passing out drunk in couches and overdosing on crack, they were left in the care of movies and music, which proceeded to raise them. It is through these media that the itinerant life of mag crews acquires such seductive glow.

Not once does the film lay blame or judge the teens for the behaviors and actions they engage in. Just like Star (Sasha Lane) joined the crew to escape an abusive father figure, so does every other member in the team has a reason that makes their decision to join rational instead of delusional. And yet there is no happiness in the business. Everything the camera captures for close to three hours reeks of sadness and destruction; the decaying state of things mirrors the hopes of Star and everybody else. It is a document not only of the near depressing conditions of the hidden America, the segment that supposedly led Donald Trump to victory last November, but of the last throes of youth. Teens abandoned by everybody but popular culture, which instilled in them the idea that what they are doing is liberating, and that money is the ultimate indicator of success.

I mention this because the mag crew sings along to every single song that comes on during every leg of their journey. No matter the time or day or genre, everybody knows the lyrics to everything. But it is not only homeless teens whose dreams have been influenced by outside forces. The first house that Star visits is hosting a birthday party for a girl who cannot be more than fifteen years old. She is with three of her friends and a dance song begins blasting through the air, and the teens start to move along with the music, eventually putting their bodies in poses that are inappropriate for children their age. She is just following along with the song, she reasons with the screams of her God fearing mother.

“I hope He comes all over your car!”, shouts Star to a passerby vehicle that has “God is Coming” sticker plastered over the rear window, after it refused to slow down for her and her two half-siblings.
The anthem of the movie is “we found love in a hopeless place”, which works wonderfully with the hopelessness that infects the entire film. I really hope the sticker the car announced comes true, for I don’t see any other way for teens and adults to have real hope again.

A-

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Manchester by the Sea

manchester

There’s a truly splendid scene that occurs near the end of the first act of Silver Linings Playbook, in which Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) invites Pat (Bradley Cooper) to have sex with her, cries upon his chest, slaps him and walks away in the span of about sixty seconds. The scene is etched into my memory for being a flawless depiction of how we process grief, and so is Jennifer Lawrence’s indelible performance.

Manchester by the Sea lasts two hours and seventeen minutes, and about a third of the running time is devoted to characters acting out, coping, and dealing with pain the same way Jennifer Lawrence did. But while David O’Russell’s picture featured silver linings, Manchester by the Sea is not interested in grand romantic gestures of hope, or in characters saving each other from their pits of despair.
But it also does not punish its audience by being bleak or depressing, the way some movies dealing with death tend to do.
Agony does not mean the absence of humor, so the movie has some of that; death does not entail the loss of carnal desire, so the movie features some of that as well; some traumas are too painful to overcome in a two hour picture, so Manchester by the Sea gives us a protagonist so miserable that he becomes the most human character I have seen at the cinema in a very long time.

A+

Equals

equals

The most cathartic moment in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar takes place during its final thirty seconds. Brand (Anne Hathaway) stares at the wreckage of Wolf Edmunds space ship, seconds before removing her helmet and placing it on the ground. The effect of this brief scene is so tremendous once examined under one that took place halfway through the movie. In it, Brand tries to convince Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) of love’s supernatural abilities. As it is not a human invention, love can transcend time and space and travel across dimensions. Love has the faculty to withstand and endure things no other emotion can; it can guide us, direct us, give us hope. Nay, love is hope itself.

I bring this up not because Equals is on par with Nolan’s masterpiece, although Kristen Stewart’s performance, as is always the case, easily matches anything McConaughey and Hathaway have to offer. I bring this up because the closing shot of the movie shows that, against all odds, love prevails. It appears that no matter how people try to quench it, in the end love will find a way.

It’s extremely dull, the way this picture reaches that conclusion, but I believe it’s worth noting.

B-

Room

Room-banner-poster

The praise plastered on the photo of the above poster is certainly quite effusive. Do I feel it is earned?
I live with a 5 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. I am a 25 year old guy whose last romantic relationship ended when my girlfriend suffered a miscarriage. I’ve known and carried resentments, and I understand the utter hopelessness that finds its way into Joy’s (Brie Larson) heart. And I also understand the hope that comes after, which this movie certainly left me with.

A-