Review: American Animals, 2018, dir. Bart Layton

Days after my review of Bart Layton’s American Animals published at Paste Magazine, I’m starting to wonder if I had problems with the film based on what I thought it should be rather than what it actually is. 

Yeah, yeah: Sounds like a bunch of hand-wringing movie critic anxiety over nothing. American Animals tells the story of four college dudes who, back in the 2000s, decided it’d be smart to rob the special collection of a college library of its rare Audubon first editions, but fucked the whole thing up and wound up going to jail; it’s a slick heist flick mixed with documentary elements, and for the most part Layton sticks to a bifurcated structure where the two never intersect with each other on screen. 

But then that does happen, maybe half an hour in, when one of the ringleaders, Warren Lipka, appears next to Evan Peters, the actor playing him, in a car, and they turn to each other, and they talk briefly about the moment the film is recollecting. It’s a small enough beat that you can say without lying that the movie isn’t really about that docudrama genre mixture, but if you’re saying that, then that calls to question Laytons’ decision to shoot that scene. So I guess I am taking issue with what the movie is, while also taking issue with what it could have been, which is a very roundabout way of saying that American Animals really chapped my ass. 

Just read the Paste Magazine review. 



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