American Teen Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Having just experienced graduation at our house, I’m intimately aware of the ordeal of surviving high school. As a result, the idea of tracking a group of small-town teens through the highs and lows of their senior year appears to be an intriguing, if not challenging, exercise in documentary filmmaking. Earning the trust of the adolescents and capturing real emotional honesty seems difficult regardless of how many cameras are rolling or how comfortable the students are with the crew. Especially when the subject matter is kids who’ve grown up with the drama of reality TV.
To begin with, the teenagers in this movie, like the fictionalized characters in Mean Girls, She’s All That and even the quirky Napoleon Dynamite, are pigeonholed into cliques—the prom princess, the basketball jock, the artsy outsider, the band geek. These labels might make story telling easier but they do little to eliminate established stereotypes.
Fortunately, Director Nanette Burstein digs a little deeper into the lives of these Midwesterners, showing at least some of the struggles they all face. For Megan Krizmanich, maintaining her position at the top of the social hierarchy is taxing as she juggles hours of school commitments and status-maintaining activities with her not-always-loyal underlings. Colin Clemens is the high point maker on the hardwood but he carries the weight of winning to please the community boosters as well as secure his own future prospects on a college team. Often, the pressure to perform takes a toll on the team’s other players, like Mitch Reinholt, who become spectators rather than participants on the court. Whether band geek (Jake Tusing), artsy outsider (Hannah Bailey) or part of the underdeveloped supporting cast in this film, it’s evident that high school can be tough—regardless of one’s social standing.
Parental expectations, either stated or implied, also come under the lens as adults express their hopes or goals for their graduating children along with their fears and concerns. However, many audience parents may be wary of this film that shows real teens discussing random sexual interactions, vandalizing property and engaging in unsupervised alcohol and cigarette use. Digitally obscured nudity, frequent strong language (some of which is bleeped out) and cyber bullying are also concerns that arise as the adolescents interact throughout the semester. As well, the film offers few, if any, immediate consequences for actions, although several of these teens engage in risky or irresponsible behaviors.
American Teen’s peek at life in Warsaw, Indiana’s community high school offers ample insights into the demands and difficulties of secondary school and is crammed with conversation starters for parents and teens. Yet for kids digesting this slice of American life on their own, the movie’s carefully crafted depiction of high school life may not be the kind of example many families are looking for.Starring Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Mitch Reinholt, Megan Krizmanich.. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release July 24, 2008. Updated March 10, 2009
Rating & Content Info
Why is American Teen rated PG-13? American Teen is rated PG-13 by the MPAA The MPAA has rated American Teen PG-13 some strong language, sexual material, some drinking and brief smoking-all invo
Considering this is a documentary with real life characters rather than actors, the film broaches some sensitive subjects including teen sex, alcohol use and bullying. While most activity is limited to onscreen kissing, teens discuss sexual activities, email pictures of a topless classmate and use crude terms for female body parts. Although some teens are shown drinking in their community, one boy travels to Mexico with his adult brother whose goal is to get the high school student drunk. Lewd dancing, digitally obscured female nudity and irresponsible, underage alcohol use are shown. Students vandalize a home, party late into the night and engage in girl-to-girl kissing. Teasing, prescription drug use and the discussion of suicide are also portrayed, along with brief depictions of video game violence. Terms of Deity, name-calling, vulgarities, repeated sexual hand gestures and strong expletives (some of which are bleeped) are used.
Page last updated March 10, 2009
American Teen Parents' Guide
What influence may the cameras and crewmembers have had on the students in this film? How might their reactions differ because of the presence of the media? Do you think their reactions are honest?
What pressures do each of these students face because of the expectations of others? Do adults put undo stresses on these students? What outcomes does the community count on from the athletes in this film?
How do the students deal with disappointments? Would their behaviors be acceptable in the adult world? How might their setbacks prepare them for later letdowns? Do any of the students in this film really lose out or fail?
Some of the teens are eager to leave town so they can be a new person. How easy is it to be someone different in another circumstance? What effect does their experiences after high school seem to have on them?
The most recent home video release of American Teen movie is December 1, 2008. Here are some details…
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While some parents attempt to achieve their athletic, academic or acting ambitions through their children, these vicarious dreams can result in disappointment for everyone involved. Based on a true story, Searching for Bobby Fischer portrays a young chess prodigy pushed to succeed by his ambitious father. Hoop Dreams is another documentary that follows the basketball hopes of some inner city Chicago teens.