..Victoria Barkley..

American Teen
a movie review

Take a jock, a popular rich girl, an artsy singer and a geek. Stir in another male athlete — one with a secretly sensitive side, for a bit more flavor. Blend these five High School seniors in the pressure cooker of approaching graduation. Place the mix on medium Midwestern flame somewhere in Indiana. Occasionally shake in some animated fears and fantasies, documenting their dreams, worries and tears. Serve hot, on a cool silver screen. And there, you have a perfect Sundance Film Festival entré for the whole family.

Having chosen the small town of Warsaw, Indiana (population 12,000) film crew and cameras moved in and became part of the community, filming daily, as unobtrusively as possible.

Following the real life adventures of Colin, Megan, Jake, Hannah (and her brief romantic encounter with Mitch), this excitingly intimate Nanette Burstein documentary should carry a warning: Viewing this film may be hazardous to your hard won veneer of adult equanimity.

Not only does this movie portray the gut wrenching roller coaster ride of what it feels like to be an American Teenager in the 21st Century, it also reflects back to the audience those universally timeless elements of growing up that any adult, without major memory problems, could relate to. The moans and groans, cheers and jeers, spontaneously voiced from seats around me, could attest to the audience's universal empathy.

Ms. Burstein takes the viewer into the true depths of adolescent angst while awaiting college admissions. There are so many internal and external pressures and decisions, all yet to shape an adult life bearing down on these soon to be High School graduates. The final product is better than any raw documentary. It is real, touching, sensitive, affectionately funny, honestly painful and yet gently respectful of the subjects' inner space.

Viewing the complex life stories of these five students, who reveal so much about themselves and each other, is not only educational for parents but good therapy for our "inner teenager."

Upon leaving the theater, the most frequently overheard comments were "Aren't you glad to have made it past those years?" "How on earth did we ever make it all the way to college?" "Isn't it great not to have to go through that again?" "Oh boy, am I happy to be over that phase of my life!" "I wouldn't be 17 again for anything in the world!"

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Other stories by Victoria Barkley:
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian -- movie review
A Message From Mom
A Tale of Two Bunnies
Animal Nature
Into the Wild - movie review
Darshan in the Dark Light of the Moon
Love Never Dies
Green Roofs, Weeds and Wildflowers
Greeting Sunrise
Arctic Tale - movie review
Seasons of Gandhi