April 30, 2008
Paramount/Vintage and A & E Indie Films present American Teen, a new documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Nanette Burnstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture).
In my opinion, the trailer does not do justice to either the hilarious comedy or the touching drama in American Teen, a phenomenal film that bursts with emotion. Burnstein impressively captures all the best and worst aspects of high school life as she follows four students (looks like five, but I say four) through their senior year at Warsaw (IN) Community High School. Not having seen the MTV shows to which American Teen has been compared, I can only say this was a lot better than I expected it could be.
Buzz about the film (and its Breafast Club-inspired poster) is picking up significantly as it travels the festival circuit, and I was fortunate to attend a screening followed by a Q & A with Nanette Burnstein (who won the 2008 Directing Award at Sundance for American Teen). She explained her decision to choose a film in the Midwest that was socioeconomically mixed, and especially one that existed as the only one in the area, thus serving as better "social pressure cooker" in which no one could "get lost." She went on to talk for about 15 minutes on everything from her filmmaking methods, to early criticism of the film (comparing it to "Laguna Beach"), to her own high school years in Buffalo, NY.
"I felt like I was back in high school," said Burnstein about her experience in Warsaw. Me too - and I actually liked it. I haven't laughed like that since The King of Kong, and...I'll admit that I almost became emotional at one point. Maybe it was the sugar from my snacks kicking in. Yeah, that must have been it.
Judge for yourself and find my full review when American Teen opens on July 25th.