Arts + Culture » Film + TV

American Teen

Directed by Nanette Burstein (Paramount)

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"The Jock; The Geek; The Rebel; The Princess; The Heartthrob---Who were you?" ask the trailers for American Teen, a doc that follows the senior year of five students from basketball-lovin' Warsaw, Indiana. (Apparently, there are only five types of teens in America.) In theory, director Nanette Burstein is relying on high school cliches because she wants to debunk them----thus, we learn that "jock" Colin has an Elvis-impersonator dad, and that rich bitch Megan is dealing with her sister's suicide. Some neat, surprising movie-moments result, most of them involving awkward band-dork Jake, who spends most of the doc embodying his "geek" label (making small talk with a potential love interest who's sweaty after "her game," Jake awesomely shares "I took a shower today and then did almost nothing, so I'm kind of just the opposite,") then randomly embarks on a debauchery-filled weekend in San Diego with his big brother. But there's lots of boring stereotype-fulfillment, too---Megan and her friends label one of their own a slut and harass her; Jake whines about girls' lack of interest; free-spirited artist Hannah wants to leave her small town behind. Probing stereotypes is admirable---but if doing so is your goal, why spend half a film predictably perpetuating them? Lindsay McCarney

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