American Honey, B-
Rated R, 163 minutes
The affecting, mesmerizing yet unconventional coming-of-age story "American Honey" provides an auspicious debut for its young lead actress. The overlong drama drifts and meanders way too much in its 163-minute run time, but there are some magnetic moments to keep you engaged. Star (Dallasite Sasha Lane in her film debut), a free-spirited teenager on the brink of adulthood, leaves her troubled home in the American Midwest and hits the road with a mag crew, some itinerant laborers who peddle publications door-to-door for long hours during the day and party hard at night, uncertain they'll be next. Led by hard-driving manager Krystal (Riley Keough, Elvis' granddaughter) and her seductive enforcer Jake (Shia LeBeouf), the crew becomes a surrogate family to Star, offering hope, love and the freedom that comes from being on the road. Directed and written by British director Andrea Arnold (2011's "Wuthering Heights") and winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the striking and well-acted "American Honey" will resonate with the many who long to take off for the unknown, bolstered by a winning, breakout turn from Texan Sasha Lane in an auspicious feature film debut. While the affecting yet vastly overlong film with strike some chords with the young set, particularly in its pulsating soundtrack and handsome midwestern visuals, it never quite achieves the epiphany that it's searching for; while Arnold's film hits some good notes and is carried ably by the lovely Lane, it's not worthy of the epic running time she gives it. The most engaging moments will come from the charming non-actors that fill the mag crew (their door-to-door exploits highlight the film), along with solid performances from a grizzly-looking LeBeouf and a tough-talking Keough as the leader of the group; also watch for a pensively memorable Arielle Holmes (seen in her debut in 2014 drug drama "Heaven Knows What") as Pagan, the girl obsessed with Darth Vadar. The second act is the toughest, not just because it's the longest, but because it wanders and drifts as aimlessly as its lead character does, and you're never quite sure of what she's actually learned from her adventures across the country or if she will emerge a changed person; there are instances it becomes "American Molasses" instead of "American Honey" because its narrative can seem that slow. Arnold could've tightened the narrative considerably for a better payoff, but there are still some charming moments (and a couple of hot sex scenes if that's your thing), and it helps that newcomer Lane is a treat to watch. "American Honey" isn't perfect but then transitioning to adulthood never is, either, so you may want to give it a chance.