(With American Teen opening in theaters today, we at Cinematical are re-running our review from Sundance.)
Nanette Burstein's documentary American Teen opens not far from John Hughes country, both geographically and artistically: we're introduced, in quick order, to four students at the high school in Warsaw, Indiana, on the first day of class. But while the camera work and voice-over has the glossy fizz of fiction, it's nonetheless a real school, and while the kids we meet all correlate roughly to the archetypal teens of fiction, they're real too. We meet Hannah, the plucky, artsy outsider; Colin, the star athlete with a heart of gold; Megan, the prom queen whose school-spirit high-fives hide an iron fist; and smart, insecure, dorky Jake, all in quick succession. And while part of your mind reels at the clichés -- we're just one Judd Nelson-type away from a straight flush, for heaven's sake -- as Burstein's film unfolds, we realize that if there ever was a place cliché's were true, it's high school.