American Teen Review

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A year in the life of five teenagers — a jock, a princess, a hunk, a geek and a misfit — in their final year at high school in Warsaw, Indiana.


Pegged as a vérité Breakfast Club, Nanette Burstein’s peach of a documentary beautifully nails adolescence in all its awkward, jubilant glory. Burstein’s film gets huge mileage in finding the real people beneath the High School stereotypes over the course of a year, following first dates, run-ins with parents, parties, b-ball games and, of course, prom.You’ll end up caring about all these kids (even bitchy Princess Megan), but it’s real-life McLovin Jake and smart rebel Hannah who’ll win your heart. Burstein may have lucked out with her subjects (she actually found a good-looking dude called Mitch Reinholt), but she marshals her material magnificently, shaping a coherent narrative without ever losing the small moments and insights into these basically likable kids.

Despite its flashy approach, American Teen remains emotionally involving because of the lives on show. You will care about these people, even if you suspect the director doesn’t.