American Teen

First Hit: An amazingly frank and wonderful look at teens in their senior year.

Five Warsaw Indiana teens are profiled in this documentary about their significant events and decisions while in their senior year.

Granted Warsaw is a relatively small town and the ethnic diversity of this film could create questions as to how relevant it is, but I imagine that in Warsaw there aren’t a lot of different cultures represented. Regardless, the struggles of these teens cut across cultural backgrounds and are refreshingly honest. The teens in this film cut across a spectrum.

There is Megan who is the rich, bossy, arrogant, and mean girl who is homecoming queen and is known by all and the queen of the class. She lashes back at friends and fellow students who cross her or don’t follow her lead. Then you begin to get a glimpse of the pressure on her to get into Notre Dame by her father and how scared she is of not making the grade.

You also get a hint of her sadness around her older sister’s suicide. Colin, the basketball star, who appears to be a one-trick-pony through basketball but there are moments of something more. It was so sad and hard to hear his father say, you either get a scholarship or it’s the Army (which he is adamantly against). Although, his family isn’t rich, it appeared they weren’t all that bad off but nowhere was there any dialog about how his family might support him getting into college.

There is Jake the geek with a face full of pimples who is obsessed with having a girlfriend which will define him. He sees himself as a looser and invisible to himself and the world. In one pointed scene while his girlfriend, who has cheated on him, tells him that they need to see other people, he lifts his head from the table and says: “there’s a lot of grease on the table now.”

There is Mitch, the likable popular jock, who begins to learn he is something more than the nice popular guy; he has a spirit and soul which he begins to discover with Hannah.

Then there is Hannah. This film could have been all about her. She is quirky, dynamic, eclectic, interesting and full of spirit. Hannah wants out of Warsaw, she doesn’t want a life like her parents or anyone else in Warsaw, and she dances to her own drummer. She lives with her grandmother because her mother is in and out of a institution due to her depression and her father travels for work.

Hannah becomes devastated when her long time boyfriend breaks up with her right after having sex for the first time. She doesn’t go to school for weeks and is walking a knife’s edge. She gets back into school, graduates and stands up to her parents who tell her she shouldn’t go to California and that “she’s not special” when everyone in the audience knows she is an amazing energy force.

Nanette Burstein directed this very insightful and interesting film. It was nice at the end to have a quick follow-up as to what each person has done 18 months after graduation. I appreciated the fearlessness the subjects showed while being filmed.

Overall: This a great film for teens and adults of teens to see.