Friday, September 05, 2008

Their So-Called Lives

Finally saw "American Teen," Nanette Burstein's award-winning documentary about a group of high school seniors in Warsaw, Ind. Maybe I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, but give me "Laguna Beach" minus the artifice (or with!) and I'm in heaven, even if it is just another painful reminder of how awful it is to be a teenager. I won't outline the plot -- all your high school archetypes are represented and everything that "normally" happens to those types happens -- but what I found so striking is that from my disinterested (adult) perspective, it was so obvious to me that:

A. The "queen bee," in addition to being a really horrible person, is really a self-hating closeted lesbian. Perhaps that explains why she's so vicious to everyone. And for all of her "beauty queen" status, she's also one dessert away from being a porker (I'm just sayin').
B. The "jock" doesn't seem like a bad kid, but he's hardly the heartthrob they all make him out to be. (He's actually pretty awful looking.) I only mention this because ...
C. The "geek" that the girls want NOTHING TO DO WITH is actually one bottle of Proactiv Solution away from being the next Josh Harnett. (Can't anyone see this?)
D. The "loner"/"outcast" is overly dependent on boys for validation because ... her dad skipped town and her mom's a nut. (Call me Dr. Phil.)
E. The "heartthrob," well, he really is a doll. I think they wanted to make him seem a little callous, but no editing could erase the fact that he was a polite, humble guy. (Shades of Andrew McCarthy in "Pretty in Pink" with Hannah, anyone?) No surprise that he's very serious at Indiana University and studying pre-med. Totally came across as a caring guy.

It's probably already Netflix time for this one (I think it even closed this week at the one theater it was playing at here in New York), but if you're a fan of reality TV at all, this is far more compelling. There's a great review of the film here.

Watch the trailer below:


Anonymous said...

During my pathology residency I actually did autopsies in Warsaw, Indiana. It's Amish country up there.

Anonymous said...

I saw American Teen at the Provincetown Film Festival in June and really enjoyed it. Having grown up in Wakarusa, Indiana, which is close to Warsaw, I can attest that they captured the feel of the area very well.

I was shocked how quickly someone's reputation can be ruined these days with camera cell phones and email. It used to take a few weeks to destroy someone, now it only takes a couple minutes.

A-list said...

I went to a preview a couple of weeks ago and LOVED it! It did have that MTV feel but with heart.

How I remember the pimples