Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 25, 2008 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation
Nanette Burstein, acclaimed documentarian of On The Ropes whittles down many hours of four high school seniors in Warsaw, Indiana into a snappy entertainment that many may compare to MTV's "The Real World". For all of the slick work put into something that comments on adolescent growing pains, American Teen doesn't have the vitality of fictional films at least from a generation ago like, The Breakfast Club which is what its poster recalls.
This cinema verite into a year of the life of Hannah, Megan, Colin, and Jake doesn't indicate that their lives are very boring at all.
Hannah is like Ellen Page's Juno, sort of an offbeat, pretentious misfit, like her best guy friend who has an ambiguous sexual side. She is a liberal atheist in a conservative Christian community.
Megan is on the other end of the social spectrum as a overachieving rich girl looked at by many as a total bitch, while basketball star Colin is able to remain an affable guy.
Social recluse Jake calls himself a "marching band supergeek" and in definite need of some self-importance unable to connect well with anyone.
Of course, being seniors means that Burnstein's quartet must ponder their lives after high school.
It doesn't help when Megan's beau of two years breaks up with her which affects her grades as her quandry has her warning herself about her often depressive mom. A gentle jock, Mitch, might be not the boyfriend one would expect her to have, and his upper-tier friends might keep it from becoming, like he refers to her, "refreshing".
Besides being under much pressure to get into Notre Dame, Megan's "inner rage" that exudes surprising loathing might have to do with a tragedy. And, her response to her peers could leave her in more than a precarious state.
Meanwhile Jake's negative self-fulfilling prophecy doesn't help his chances with his first girlfriend, but hope seems on the horizon; Colin's high expectations to perform on the court for a scholarship, even if his Elvis-imitating father really is more caring and gracious than imposing.
The style surrounding these episodes works in some animated, montage sequences with voiceover in vogue that seems to put the viewer in empathy with its disparate subjects. It doesn't offer a dramatic natural high for the viewer, especially in one "eye-contact" interlude.
American Teen has laudable intentions about fears and aspirations, but ultimately seems a bit too maneuvered rather than being incisive about how today's kids cope and digest their personal experiences in an attempt to overcome all the stress and start a worthwhile life for themselves.