Issue #13: American Honey and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Still too broke for proper mental health services.
Riddle me this:
Why would a sorely underemployed person choose to pay $120 to an institution whose endowment is larger than half the world’s economies, just to revisit the place from which some of her deepest emotional traumas have stemmed???? Does anyone have the answer to this one?
On an entirely unrelated note, I am going to my 5-year college reunion this weekend. And since my health insurance plan only covers life-or-death scenarios for my freelance ass, I have turned to movies as therapy. So here are two movies I’ve watched in the last few weeks that have helped me dissociate the most, offering me a few hours of sweet relief from this endless string of days I’m told is “my life.”
I’m doing really well, thanks for asking <3
I remember seeing the promotional materials for American Honey back in 2016 and thinking, “Yeah, I’m gonna skip this one.” The messaging I got was essentially, “Come see Shia LaBeouf and Elvis Presley’s granddaughter star in a 2.5 hour-long Halsey video.” Maybe it was titling the film after a Lady Antebellum song, maybe it was the familiar imagery of the All-American Roadtrip™, maybe it was Shia LaBeouf’s braided rat tail. In any case, I felt like I knew what to expect from the film, so why should I go see it?
Boy, was I wrong.
A few things nudged me towards eventually watching the film. First, I learned that the film was directed by Andrea Arnold. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, just know that she is one of the greatest living filmmakers. Her film Fish Tank is one of my favorites of all time. I mean it. OF. ALL. TIME. (Side Note: that film launched me into a years-long obsession over Michael Fassbender that lasted until he got married to Alicia Vikander in 2017). For some reason, mentioning that one of the greatest living filmmakers had made this film was not part of the core marketing strategy. Second, Netflix just added it to their roster about a month ago. And yeah, that’s basically all it took.
So I fired up ye olde Roku to see what this road trip movie was all about. Firstly, labeling it a “road trip movie” really does not do it justice. Sure, it largely takes place in a multi-passenger van, hurtling down endless stretches of the Great American Freeway, but the soul of the film is in the exploration of the heart-breaking world of Magazine Crews. Inspired by a 2007 NYT article, Arnold tells the story of Star, an 18-year-old stuck in Muskogee, OK, looking for any reason to get away. After a long day of dumpster diving for her dinner, she meets Shia “braided rat tail” LaBoef in a K-Mart parking lot. He tells her he’s got a job for her in Kansas. That’s all the information she needs — she joins the band of young adults and travels from state to state, selling magazine subscriptions by day and partying by night. The promise of escape and freedom quickly turns dark, as Star struggles to figure out where this is all headed.
Arnold is a tone queen, immersing her audience in languid summer days and long car rides. She points a non-judgemental lens at characters who make questionable decisions, who stand in their own way, who don’t know any better, or who deliberately self-sabotage. She takes them as they are, capturing their fierceness and tenderness, their vulnerability and tenacity, their infuriating flaws and their mesmerizing beauty. The score of the film is almost entirely diegetic, peppered with the music of Rihanna, E-40, Jeremih, and yes, Lady Antebellum. It’s a 3-hour trip I wished would never end.
American Honey is available on Netflix. You can also rent it from most other streaming services.
Rewatching Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion right before my own school reunion might seem a little bit on the nose. But it was an incredibly healing experience, so kindly H off my D.
Romy and Michele hearkens back to a time when Hollywood independent film dared to have fun and use one fucking color in the production design (I refer to this period as “the 90s”). It is a beautiful story about friendship, young adulthood, and trying to lose 15 pounds in the two weeks before your reunion but gaining a pound instead. It is also, perhaps, the world’s most quotable film (“You look so good with blond hair and black roots, it’s, like, not even funny”).
Romy and Michele are two stylish women living in Los Angeles and loving their lives, which mostly consists of going to the club, looking cute, making fun of Pretty Woman, and eating candy. It isn’t until they start filling out a “Where Are They Now?” questionnaire for their high school reunion that they start to question how impressive their lives really are. So they go on a two-week mission to make their lives more impressive in time for the reunion. And when that doesn’t work, they decide to lie.
What follows is sugary sweet, campy goodness. Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino are comedy geniuses who elevate an already hilarious screenplay. Donned in capital-L-E-W-K-S LEWKS, Kudrow and Sorvino nail girlish, dead-pan, clueless, heartfelt, savvy, awkward, and confident all at once. They are joined by 90s indie queen Janeane Garofalo and noted Spy Kids villain Alan Cumming in equally delightful performances.
This is not an especially obscure recommendation, but I think it is an essential American comedy. If you’ve never seen it, run don’t walk. If you’ve seen it, but it’s been a while, do yourself a favor and revisit it. This movie makes me so, so happy, every time I watch it, time after time.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is available on Hulu. You can also rent it for $2.99 on most streaming platforms.
Just thinking about these two films has put me in a better mood already. The power of cinema!
Please keep me in your prayers this weekend. If there is no new issue of the newsletter next week, fret not. It is likely because I spontaneously combusted after being in the presence of all the enemies I racked up between 2010 and 2014.
Peace out, girl scouts.