Opens on 25 July in NY / LA & Wide Release in August
Oh, the horror. There are days when I think that you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to go back to high school. And then there are days when I would love to go back with my L.L. Bean backpack chock-full of If-I-Knew-Then wisdom. Nanette Burstein’s documentary, “American Teen” reminds us that high school-ers are delicate flowers waiting to blossom. They are also, more often than not, total biatches that need a good slap. For a documentary, this one if hyper-produced, but that only enunciates the stories of these Indiana teenagers as they begin their senior yeah of high school and dream of bigger things. The cafeteria politics, the romance, the pressure, it’s all there. Burstein is smart enough to know that these kids will be categorized by her audiences, so she does it for us. There’s the jock, the geek, the rebel, the princess and the heartthrob. Each one of these kids allows us in, if only for a brief time. There is such drama in here – clearly high school hasn’t changed a lick. And for the stuff that you can’t capture on film – the hopes and dreams of our leads – for that, the film looks to animation, video games and drawings. It’s all pretty engaging on a personal level, and pretty horrifying on a social/douchery level. And with a soundtrack that includes Imogen Heap, well for that, we can forgive some of the moodiness of these kids lying in bed and pouting. Yet, in the throes of that moodiness, the most striking moments erupt without notice, and all our presumptions and judgey-ness evaporate. Watching “American Teen” will remind you of the years when pain and joy were immeasurably intense.