Being seventeen has never seemed as interesting, frightening or fun as it does in Nanette Burstein’s unabashedly entertaining new documentary. A real-life Breakfast Club (with cell phones), the film portrays the lives of four teenagers in a small Indiana town during their senior year. Nice guy Colin is a basketball star, though the fact that he’s got an Elvis impersonator for a father scores him some “cool” points. Desperately seeking companionship is the acne-cursed Jake, a self-described “marching band supergeek” who bemoans his fate as a social pariah. The arty Hannah is proud to be a misfit, though, tossing phrases like “total caste system” around to describe the school. She’s also comfortable with other phrases (e.g., “total bitch”) to describe rich-girl prom queen Megan, an overachiever whose numerous extracurricular activities still leave room for 9mm-gunplay at the local firing range. What seems a central casting dream—jock, nerd, indie-girl, prom queen—soon becomes far more complex, as over the course of the year Burstein’s teen subjects begin to form adult identities. Filming a generation as media savvy as this one—raised on The Real World, Road Rules and countless other reality shows—can be challenging, but Burstein cuts through her subjects’ periodic self-conscious MTV-isms to get to the heart of their stories. American Teen is neither dryly academic nor a cable-TV wannabe, but instead a moving documentary with heart, sophistication, drama and, of course, a prom.
West Coast Premiere. Sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Wells Fargo and KQED.
Official Website: http://fest08.sffs.org/films/film_details.php?id=4
Added by coda on April 29, 2008