"American Animals" follows a pretty simple story. One about growing-up, friends, young adulthood...
...oh, and robbing a library of books worth millions of dollars...That little detail, too.
I can't say I've ever seen any heist film like this one, though.
What makes this concept so captivating and so unique compared to other legendary heist films like 'Ocean's Eleven', 'The Italian Job' and others is that this film revolves around both a certain sense of nihilism and adolescence. In a way, I would call this film the unholy love-child of "Ocean's Eleven", "The Social Network" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".
The thing that sets this film apart from the others in its genre is just how REAL everything becomes by the time we watch these college kids, all aimless and without a clue, try to chase the American Dream through the most devious way possible. Spearheaded by spectacular leading performances by Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters, this film is not about a heist. Rather, this film is about nihilism, and growing-up in just about the scariest way possible.
The film itself grows-up as we go, as we open with a sense of style and editing that is snappy and fast-paced. The style of young adult; alive and frantic. Everything is bright lights and pop songs, all while our protagonists see themselves as 'good guys' as they plot a heroic heist of a library and its priceless books. The theater I was in was happily rolling-along, audience laughing heartily with the silly antics.
But suddenly, just as we as audiences want to see this heist succeed, and we suddenly see it unfold...the consequences hit. The laughing becomes weaker and weaker until we as audiences reach a similar realization as the characters do; this is real life.
While the film's style of pseudo-documentary mixed with fiction was not exactly the most smoothly-executed (At times it felt jerky and almost gimmicky), it eventually comes back into play as the teaching tool of the entire film. The film's points it chooses to make, both light and dark, are powerful through this very medium. Its pacing and choices of editing, specifically a change by the second half that evolves the entire film into something completely different, were what flipped the proverbial coin for me as an audience member.
The evolving state of this film, the proverbial 'growing-up' it symbolized to me as an audience member, was what truly made it impactful and transcended this film from a "Good" one to a "Great" one.
This film is not about a heist. Rather, it is a film about growing-up THROUGH a heist. Indeed, as many billed it to be, "American Animals" is like no heist film before it. Thankfully, that's for all the right reasons.
I seriously recommend seeing this indie darling of a film. While rough around the edges and lacking an entirely-bulletproof execution, I think this is one of the most interesting films I've seen thus far this year.
It, quite literally, 'grows up' as you watch it.
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