“American Animals”

FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: This past Friday, I saw “American Animals,” which stars Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Kick-Ass), Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Blake Jenner (The Edge of Seventeen, Everybody Wants Some!!), Jared Abrahamson (Hello Destroyer, Travelers [TV series]), Ann Dowd (Hereditary, Compliance), Spencer Reinhard, Warren Lipka, Eric Borsuk, Chas Allen, and Betty Jean Gooch. It is written and directed by Bart Layton (The Imposter, 16 for a Day [TV movie]). A true story, this film follows four young men, Spencer (Keoghan), Warren (Peters), Eric (Abrahamson), and Chas (Jenner), as they attempt to steal old books from a college library.

Why hasn’t there been more talk about this film? Was it a limited release? You got me; all I do know is “American Animals” is a great hidden gem of cinema. Released in the folds of various big-name pictures this year like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Incredibles 2,” “American Animals” tells the true story of four college students who attempted to steal old books from a school library in 2005. It goes on to state clearly that this isn’t based on a true story, but rather IS a true story, blending elements of narrative and documentary to bring a story of finding oneself and the yearn for something bigger than oneself. Amongst the film’s narrative are interviews with the real guys themselves who stole the books back in 2005, alongside a few others who were close to the convicts. But this movie went a step further than just simply interviewing the real life people. At various times, the story will be altered by different perspectives of the interviewees (specifically with the conflicting accounts of Warren and Spencer) and even have the real life guys thrown into the narrative to add another tonal layer to the already fascinating plot. It was genius, and I liked it more than what I thought. For me, I’m not one for these kind of flicks that seek to be both a narrative and documentary. At times, the documentary side will edge out the narrative, almost completely taking away from the dual-sided nature and just becoming another documentary. I don’t hate documentaries, but I don’t go out of my way to watch them either. “American Animals” reminds me of how a film like “Bernie” could’ve been better if approached on another level. We’re not only seeing interviews of the real life people, but it is being twisted in a way that the interviews become apart of the style or a narrative tool itself (without taking away from the actual recanting of the true events, mind you). I was fascinated with the story from the get-go, as while it isn’t the most harrowing of tales in cinema (I mean, it’s four guys trying to steal books), the backstory to it all was very interesting. The characters themselves are fleshed out enough to make you care for what they are doing, even if you don’t agree with it. These four guys were all looking to achieve something within themselves (at least Warren and Spencer) and seeing them work overtime to accomplish a feat others would find impossible for guys their age makes for an engaging feature. I loved the direction of this, and the performances were fantastic. Evan Peters has some great acting chops on him, as I’ve never really got to see his range until now (all I’ve really seen him in is the “X-Men” flicks). Barry Keoghan was also good, and made for a great foil to Peters’ Warren. These guys are what made the story genuine and real, outside of the actual interviews themselves. While a majority of the plot went to the actual prep to the heist itself, quite a bit of time was geared towards home life, and how broken these guys were both before the heist and in realizing the consequences of what their actions could lead to. Nothing is too elaborate nor is the story so rich that you can watch it several times and find something new, but the approach to what was given is so good that you can’t help but be captivated. At almost every turn, these guys are losing, even if they try to be in control; the fact that we as an audience know that they failed before watching the heist go down is enough of a push for our focus on these characters and how their lives were affected by this thrill to do something more with themselves. I enjoyed the experience, with my only griefs about it being a few dry spots in story. Overall, “American Animals” is worth a watch if you’re looking for something new and original; I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. FINAL SCORE: 92%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““American Animals”

  1. Pingback: October Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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