In theory, today’s teenagers should be too self-aware to make compelling documentary subjects. Having grown up with reality TV their whole lives, they would seem too savvy to reveal their true selves in front of a camera, let alone serve as the subject matter for a refreshingly honest portrait of how high-schoolers really live — which is exactly what American Teen provides.
Opening July 25, the latest film from director Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) spends a year following five Indiana high-school seniors who fit obvious archetypes: a queen bee, a pair of jocks, an alternative girl, and a taxidermy-loving geek. Though their story arcs follow familiar trajectories — a romance between the alternative girl and a jock is doomed from the start — it’s fascinating and heartbreaking to watch these kids struggle to transcend the stereotypes of their respective cliques. American Teen reminds you that in each high-schooler is a fragile and complicated person, and that high school still pretty much sucks.
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