American Teen (2008)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Teens being teens, high school flashbacks

Reality feels heavily manipulated in film

Movie Info

Movie Name: American Teen

Studio: Paramount Vantage

Genre(s): Documentary

Release Date(s): July 25, 2008

MPAA Rating: PG-13


Hannah Bailey (the Rebel)

Warsaw Community High School in Warsaw, Indiana is like every school. There are popular kids, geeks, odd balls, jocks, and those that don’t even have a clique. Meet Hannah Bailey (the rebel), Colin Clements (the jock), Megan Krizmanich (the princess), Mitch Reinholt (the heartthrob), and Jake Tusing (the geek)…all celebrating their senior year of school and looking toward the future. Somethings in high school have remained the same (roaring emotions, kids can be mean, sports, and dances) but other things might have changed internet, phone, and computers. Follow the students ups and downs as they try to just survive.

Directed by Nannette Burstein, American Teen is a teen documentary.  The film was relatively well received but also faced criticism with accusations that Nannette Burstein of faked some of the images for storytelling purposes, and in turn sensationalized the documentary.

I am from Indiana, and I have been to Warsaw.  I have a good idea of where these kids are coming from despite the age difference.  That is the plus of American Teen…it is something that adults all experienced in some form and teens are experiencing.  Sometimes drama does not need to dramatized…it is drama enough.


Jake Tusing (the Geek)

It is very staged and sensationalized at points in the movie. The geek character (Jake) has his books & paper fall out of his locker like a bad stereotype of a high school comedy. Each character goes into these fantasy monologues of what they dream of…the dialogue might be genuine, but it feels so scripted and edited. Burstein then turns these fantasies into computer animated movies, claymation, and other styles of art. She also set out and drew a ton of parallels to The Breakfast Club (as demonstrated by the movie poster).

The sensationalized factor of the movie does make it watchable, but I am ok with it because high school is sensationalized. When you’ve left high school it is this pretty place where A) everything was perfect or B) everyday was a struggle. In high school everything is blown out of proportion in your mind and sensationalizing it seems natural because that is what kids do.

I do feel Burstein is manipulative. First it was obvious that Mitch wasn’t part of the original plan, but he had a good personality and then he takes an interest in the most interesting character Hannah. This leads to a few drop in throughout the movie to make him seem more connected. Mitch doesn’t have much background or parents showing up as a result.


Megan Krizmanich (the Princess…or Villain?)

The most manipulated part of the movie has to be “the princess” Megan. Halfway through the movie it is revealed that her sister tragically committed suicide a few years before. Obviously that isn’t her fault and it does have an effect on a person’s life. The way it is edited into the film however, it appears as an “ah ha” moment where you are suppose to attribute all her truly awful behavior to this event in her life. I would have preferred to have this information early on instead of this round about “feel sorry for her” way it was put in. I have a feeling that she wasn’t a nice person before her sister’s death and she still isn’t a nice person at the time of the filming. I would hope that she’d look at the movie, she how she is portrayed, and actually change…but I can’t imagine she would. It would be interesting to see how her classmates at Notre Dame treated her after seeing the film, but I also have a feeling Megan is the type of girl who always lands on her feet.

American Teen is an enjoyable movie and a documentary for people who don’t like documentaries. The movie has a story and can bring back memories of school (good and bad). Hannah is the best thing to come out of the story and you really hope she succeeds. Growing up in Indiana, it has even more meaning for me, but American Teen, I think can be enjoyed by all.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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