American Animals: Film Review

(Ace Weekly, 2018)

On the 22nd of September, Luna Cinemas in Leederville hosted an advanced screening of the movie American Animals. The venue was in excellent condition, clean facilities and friendly staff. Some of the viewers were so excited they decided to crack open a bottle of champagne, just short of 11 am. The cinema was very full of customers wanting to see how this true story would unfold.

This is not your ordinary college-boy-gone-bad type of movie. The start of the film had a charismatic and appealing presentation, with montages of artistic images followed by a remarkable transition to a country drive. What truly made this country drive so special was how the film became inverted; instead of the sky being displayed at the top of the screen and the grass at the bottom, the opposite occurred. This portrayed a powerful message that things aren’t always as they seem and gave the impression that this was no ordinary movie.

The film focused on Spencer Reinhard, a very creative student who always wished for something to come along and change his life. Spencer joins forces with the mischievous Warren Lipka, a college athlete who seems frustrated with how mindless America can be. This is pronounced when he states “We are the fastest nation in the world and so much food gets wasted. I don’t feel bad about stealing it.”

A very powerful feature of the movie is that both the actors and the people the story is about were involved in the film and it added that touch of authenticity, allowing the viewers to feel as if they had a closer connection to the four boys and their lives. Some scenes involved Spencer and his visual projections of the past, present, and future, sending a strong message that the boy is anxious about his future and is starting to question the decisions he is making. In his adult years, it could be said that he did experience the life-changing event he was waiting for, but in the end, he is still haunted by his past.

This film left the audience with many questions to consider. Although they were arrested, were these young and naive “boys” really criminals? If so, would one say they were evil? They broke the law and committed acts that were unjust, that goes without question. But this film reveals to us the ‘every man’ in my opinion. We see kids, trying to grow up in a society that has so many rules and pressures. They desire the “American Dream,” the very life that the media and Hollywood promote daily as being of the highest achievement. A life where there is no financial stress, where everything is perfect and you can have whatever you want at the touch of a button. Needless to say, this life is for a select few and as we have seen with celebrities such as Amy Winehouse, Prince and Robin Williams, there is more to life than having fame and money. This lifestyle won’t necessarily buy you happiness nor fill that void of which you have been desperately trying to fill for so long.

I think that we often lose sight of what is important in life. As humans, we tend to be extremely busy and tend to forget about others, how we speak, how we act, and fail to realise how we affect one another. This message, and the way the film portrays it is perhaps the standout quality of the piece. Towards the end of the film, in one of my favourite scenes, the librarian character states that she has no idea what compels people to commit the actions that these boys did, but imagines they were likely lost and still trying to find themselves. This scene was followed by a swift transition of a juxtaposing scene, where Spencer was seen completing a large flamingo puzzle; he’s just trying to solve the puzzle of his life.

This was a very powerful and creative movie and I think it was worthy of a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I feel the message that this movie was trying to get across to the audience was that we should be there for one another and appreciate life as we have it. Because in a blink of an eye it could all change.

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