“American Teen” Ordinarily Labeled with Extraordinary Insight

Genres: Documentary and Teen
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: July 25th, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, sexual material, some drinking and brief smoking--all involving teens.
Distributors: Paramount Vantage

Directed by:
Nanette Burstein

JJ Rating: B

Five teens are followed with camera crew documenting their last year in high school. They follow the Rebel, the Geek, the Jock, the Princess and the Heartthrob. American Teen.

I will tell you what I learned from watching this and that is that teenagers just should skip the whole relationship thing until they are out of high school. Because of all the things they have to contend with a relationship just adds more added pressure and if that was removed then 95% of all the problems that show up in this film would not have existed. Of course my idea is so far fetched that it’ll never come into play – EVER. It is what I learned, though. Who texts a break up? How gentlemanly.

Then there is the obsessive need to be in control and not listening to anyone else’s opinions. Or being followed by a camera catching you cheating and telling the person you were dating that you didn’t cheat on them. That girl did really well forgetting the camera was there.

What’s funny, to me, is that I was guessing what was going to happen as if I was watching a movie…and I was getting it right. I was not doing a whole lot of guessing just enough. Guess it shows that movies can model real life well enough. Or I’m just terribly good at reading a situation.

The one thing that this documentary holds to that a movie doesn’t is that feel of it just being life. There’s no happy ending. There’s no actual getting someone back for breaking up after they had sex with you. It just moves along with great moments of adulation and down right depressing moments of dread. I got to see the goodness of the bad child who wants and takes what isn’t rightfully hers. There’s actual heart within that stone cold exterior.

I was the only one in the theater on this lonely afternoon and I talked to the screen while I watched it. Ha. With comments like, “I can’t believe you did that you’re seemingly a great guy”, “What is wrong with you”, “GO TO SCHOOL”, “Just make her do it” and “Whore.”

I said whore a lot. This one girl was a whore and I would have said it to her face. But that would be mean. Not as mean as what technology did to a girl that thought it was a great idea to photo her breast and text it to not one but two guys. The one guy would have kept it to himself but she had to share it with the other and that just totally got her into social hell.

I think that parents should see this and that way they can understand some of the pressures their teen might be experiencing. Watching the conversations between the teens and their parents it was apparent that communication was not many people’s strong suit. The well intentions of the parents was masked by their demanding their teen to do as they believe was right without actually listening to what the teen was feeling or thinking, and the teen was into doing what they wanted without listening to the wisdom of the parent.

I actually had favorites. I liked them all, actually, but I really liked the Geek (Jacob—my brother’s name) because he had dry wit and was funny but that girl he dated at first just didn’t get it and she was mean to begin with. I also liked Mitch until…well…you’d just have to see. He did feel sorry so I appreciated that. I just think that Jacob has that rocker look he could rock out with if he were in a band. I just dislike seeing people not having someone to talk to because I think everyone is worthy in some way, it’s just harder to find that reason in some people, but it’s there. It’s always there.

American Teen might be a little white breaded for some, but a teen is a teen is a teen no matter the country; and even though the location is different the slots in which these five teens fit are found elsewhere. And as much as people wish not to be labeled they fall into a category and they can relate to something that is going on in this film without having to be the same color or the same gender. It’s not perfect and it’s not one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but it is informative and actually heartwarming to see that there are some young people that have good intentions no matter how jacked up this world is; hope grows just like grass in the most impenetrable areas where it seems nothing can grow, there you find grass and life, again, blooms. American Teen brings forth such a find. There is hope and they’re in the high schools just trying to find out who and what they are. American Teen is ordinary in concept and view but extraordinary in insight and intent.

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