Saturday, May 16, 2009

american teen

So, this is a new feature called Blind Spots that I'm going to be doing on this blog. It'll give me a chance to write about movies or albums or whatever that I missed during their initial run. I'll write them in the style of Consumables and, ideally, this exercise of going back will help me fill in some gaps. I'll write these whenever the spirit moves me.

American Teen
Here's a movie that worked on me despite itself. Documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein (who co-directed the equally shallow The Kid Stays in the Picture) journeyed to an Indiana small town to follow a bunch of students over the course of their senior year. American Teen was the result, a deeply slick gloss of all the stereotypes we remember from our adolescence -- the jock, the bitchy popular girl, the cool artistic outsider. The narrative structure is everything you've come to hate from the proliferation of reality TV in the last decade -- every conflict has a resolution, every single second of real life is part of a story arc.

But, as I said, I have to admit that the film touched me. Perhaps not even realizing it, Burstein does her best work when showing her subjects' thought process when it comes to choosing a college. American Teen does a fine job illuminating that most crucial of early decisions in a person's life
-- what a momentous decision at such a young age. And while Burstein doesn't tell me anything I don't know about adolescent boys, she seems to have gotten to the root of young women's insecurities. The charge against American Teen that the filmmaker's cameras inspired the students to act out is fair, but there is a benefit -- Burstein's young ladies really open up and seem comfortable around her.

Still, a movie like American Teen irritates me because it's yet another documentary that's more of a documentary-lite. There aren't really that many observations or insights to it -- but, it's, y'know, real life, so that means it's true.