Title: American Teen
Director: Nanette Burstein
Studio/Distributor: A&E IndieFilms/Paramount Vantage/Paramount Pictures Corporation
Synopsis: Set in the small town of Warsaw, Indiana, this documentary follows the lives of four very different teenagers and the many obstacles, hardships, jealousies, romances & heartbreaks they face while attending high school.
The Bottom Line: When I first saw the previews for “American Teen”, I thought this looked to be an interesting idea: capturing teenagers and high school life as seen in the real world, not through some MTV-glossed lens that romanticized it and made it look like a primetime teen-centric soap opera (i.e. The Hills, Laguna Beach, etc.). Luckily, this well-made documentary was not one of those things. “American Teen” is a doc that captures the real-life struggles of teenagers in a high school located in the small town of Warsaw, Indiana. Once I finally got a chance to purchase a pre-used copy of it at Blockbuster, I saw the movie not only as a film afficiando but as someone who’s been through a few of the situations that the main subjects of the film had gone through. Speaking of which, let’s talk about the subjects of the film. First, there’s Hannah Bailey, a cute & smart student at WHS who’s a bit of an eccentric misfit with liberal views while the town she’s lives in is mostly conservative. Hannah finds Warsaw the town where no one goes nowhere and her one and only goal is to move to California where she wants study filmmaking. However, she faces some problems in the midst of pursuing her dream such as being tardy from school for several weeks to recover from a severe break-up and having a brief relationship with the school heartthrob that has caused friction with the school cliques. Then, Colin Clemens is the school’s star athlete who’s very popular and well-liked with everyone at school. His main focus for the year is to use his basketball skills for a make-or-break opportunity to impress scouts and receive a sports scholarship. If he doesn’t get the scholarship, he must enroll in the military, which is something he cannot allow to happen. Next up, queen bee Megan Krizmanich, whose is considered the most popular in school. Megan has achieved success in academics, popularity & is involved with many of the school’s extracurricular activities. Her biggest dream is to attend the University of Notre Dame, to continue a family legacy, but her mean girl ways and manipulative behavior could cost her the chance of a lifetime. Also, there’s the school heartthrob Mitch Reinholdt, who’s admired by many of his peers because he’s easy-going, good looking & great at sports (he happens to be Colin’s teammate). Mitch befriends, and soon after, briefly dates Hannah. Even though he’s the least featured of most of the main students, his story involving him & Hannah is the most prominent of the film. Finally, there’s the school introvert Jake Tusing, who performs in a marching band and plays video games. However, the one thing he wants most is to have a girlfriend. Throughout most of the movie, we are shown footage of Jake’s dating life, leading up to him having a date for the prom. Some have said that the film feels scripted and some moments in the film are sensationalized. There is absolutely no trace of that, whatsoever. “American Teen” is anything but scripted, every moment you see gives you this feeling of deja vu. If you have grown tired of the stuff you see on primetime & cable TV or the things you see in modern-day fictional teen movies, then consider “American Teen” a satisfying breath of fresh air.