American Teen

Nanette Burstein, who made the entertaining Robert Evans documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, spent a year hanging out with a handful of carefully chosen adolescents from the only high school in the small town of Warsaw, Indiana, orthopedic manufacturing capital of the world. Burstein’s film seeks to break down the wall between narrative and nonfiction filmmaking — and by the relaxed standards of documentary filmmaking today, it’s not especially remarkable that the kids’ paths cross more than can be accounted for by serendipity, or that Burstein has woven in an alt-rock score and some rather lovely animation to catch the flavor of each teen’s inner life. Or is it? Even when it’s ripping off Juno and The Hills, American Teen is fascinating. But Burstein’s attempt to deepen the conversation about the horrors of being young in America can’t shake off the hackneyed typecasting of nerd, sports hero, princess, rebel and hunk. The kids and their struggles are plenty absorbing, but we’ll never know how much their stories were consciously shaped by the filmmaker into a descendant of The Breakfast Club.

Categories: Movies