In American Honey, writer-director Andrea Arnold crafts a coming-of-age story about teenage wanderlust that practically feels like a documentary. The film is a peculiar slice of life, both immersive and engrossing, and while watching it you feel as though you are just another member of the rag-tag crew. The camerawork and a score driven by pop music enhance the realism of the film. The story focuses around a group of young people who sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door. Full of an ensemble cast of mostly non-actors, American Honey wanders through life with dubious morals, sexual and emotional exploration, and the pace of a buddy road trip movie – just with about a dozen buddies.
Leaning heavily on his music video roots, John Carney has concocted a captivating coming-of-age story in Sing Street. Though populated by a cadre of lesser-known actors, there are solid performances all around, and absolutely wonderful musical pieces. It is tangentially reminiscent of a small-scope Almost Famous, complete with a young man exploring the world of music, but in this case it is as a creator and not as a journalist. Further, Sing Street is much more family-life focused, and there is a decided follow-your-dreams lean to the theme of the film. But the undoubted strength of the film is its employment of music. Carney uses music for everything: characterization, relationship-building, thematic statements, and much, much more. Plus, the pieces are drop-dead fantastic, and the majority of the score is diegetic, which aids the realism of the film. Taken together, it is clear that Sing Street will contend with the very best films of 2016.
Wisconsin Film Festival Opening Night
New Zealand director Taika Waititi (pronounced Tie-Ka Why-tee-tee) has created a magnificently funny coming-of-age film in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Most known for the HBO series Flight of the Conchords and the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, Waititi has also directed more standard narrative-based films like Boy and Eagle vs. Shark. Hunt for the Wilderpeople falls in this category, as it tells the story of an orphan named Ricky being introduced to a new foster family on the edge of the New Zealand bush.
Writer and director Rick Famuyiwa opens his film Dope with a clear homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Both films begin with a title card sporting definitions of the film’s title. Three definitions unveil:
- noun: a drug taken illegally for recreational purposes
- noun: a stupid person
- slang: excellent. Used as a generalized term of approval