Over the weekend I took a couple of hours away from the mountain of work to watch “American Teen”, Nanette Burstein’s new documentary about ordinary teenagers living through an ordinary senior year in Warsaw, Kansas. Here’s the trailer (complete with spelling mistake–‘highschool’ should be two words):
Structurally, it’s very similar to a zilliion teen movies. The producers obviously recognize this, given the movie poster’s clever remake of The Breakfast Club poster:
Aside from being a documentary, what sets it apart from other teen movies is how it undercuts our assumptions about the archetypes. Sure, the princess seems like a manipulating bitch, but the movie reveals an unexpected underlying reason for her behaviour.
In short, it’s a quirky, funny and sad movie that felt, at its core, very familiar. Not only because it was like a lot of high school movies, but because it felt a lot like my memories of high school.
I should mention that the film is straighter and whiter than any modern teen movie. That didn’t trouble me, as there’s no shortage of teenage tales of diverse, inner-city schools. The critics were lukewarm on this movie, and I wonder if the white breadness was an issue for them.