Here we are now, entertain us

August 1, 2008

“American Teen,” the documentary that follows five Warsaw High School students through their senior year, is getting terrific reviews everywhere, including this writeup in the Washington Post:

Producer-director Burstein has created a sort of Facebook-vérité that shows the vulnerability behind those stickers. No surprise, these students are infinitely more complex than their one-dimensional labels would suggest. And watching the young Midwesterners — a nerd, a jock, a princess, a free spirit and a heartthrob — as they grapple with their socially assigned roles, we are transported into philosophical reveries about our own experiences, no matter how far away from Indiana those experiences may have been.

[. . .]

We are our cliches, this movie is telling us, and yet we are not. The choices we make, whether in high school or later years, amount to how much we stick to, or depart from, those reductive templates. We either grow or we don’t.

One knock about the distributors of the movie is that they’re trying to market it in a way that disguises the fact that it’s a documentary, including an ad campaign that has the movies’ real five characters posing just like the five teens in “The Breakfast Club.” Documentaries don’t make nearly the money that “real” movies do, and so what if a few people go in thinking they’re getting something they’re not.

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