American Teen

American Teen (2008)
Paramount Home Video
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Blogs, Trailers, Pop-Quiz

You knew Generation Tech had to have its very own "Breakfast Club, " particularly if you've seen the original movie poster of this movie which mimics the impressionable marquee shot for John Waters' eighties teen angst classic. After all, they're borrowing quiet gratuitously from the eighties, be it metal, punk and alt music or interminable horror film redos. Even chicks today sport vintage Pat Benetar and Patti Smith dos. Nonetheless, it's fitting that Nanette Burstein's "American Teen" would be presented in a reality format as befitting a generation gorging itself on YouTube and Tila Tequila.

In what is touted as a sociological film experiment, Burstein painstakingly went through ten different American high schools in search of prototype cliquers and outcasts to loosely fit into the designer duds of Molly Ringwald and company. In turn, "American Teen" follows five high school seniors from "The Breakfast Club's" replicated walks of life: i.e., the uppity rich girl, the appeasing jock type, the loner outcast, the pretty boy and the punkette.

Therein lies the only true similarity between "The Breakfast Club" and "American Teen," because Burstein's film goes perhaps deeper than even John Waters bravely tapped in his film where teenagers drop their facades under forced circumstances and frequently weep and fume through their differences to realize at the core, there's enough glue as human beings to get past the subdivisions which high school creates autonomously.

For "American Teen's" purposes, our house cast is a cluster of five adolescents growing up in a Republican Indiana town named Warsaw (a genuine place) where fathers are local legends (and latter day Elvis impersonators) and George W. Bush still has favored credentials.

Hannah Bailey is "American Teen's" equivalent of Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynolds, only nowhere near as forwardly mopey. Granted, Hannah drops out of society when her initial relationship is squandered through meaningless sex and she fears being considered the delegated school skank. Hannah has aspirations of becoming a serious artist, and when she opts to move to San Francisco after graduation, her resistance towards beginning a new relationship is weakened when she is courted by school face man Mitch Reinholt. An improbable fling on the surface, Reinholt eventually dumps Hannah by text message when pressure from conflicting cliques undoes their romance (a little Pretty in Pink, anyone?).

Megan Krizmanich is the popular school socialite whose wealth and sleek, WASP-ish features puts her into the position of a Heathers-like snob principal. Somewhat similar to Molly Ringwald's Claire Standish, Megan shows vulnerability in her character despite the fact you can pinpoint her rudeness to a figurehead father who will settle for nothing less than to see his daughter attending college at Notre Dame like a gross portion of their family has done. Megan's anxiety to please her father causes her to lash out in other ways, such as defacing a male rival's window with a phallic image and the word "Fag." Megan has a male friend she's known since the dawn of time but refuses to grow romantically-involved despite his declaration of love for her (and despite the fact she lets him get away with a full-on boob honking). At the same time, she cannot stomach the sight of him with another girl, in particular her best friend, which causes a serious rift towards the end of their senior year.

Colin Clemens is an ace basketball player at Warsaw High and shoo-in for All-County. His tremendous dedication to the sport is largely in deference to a domineering live-through-the-victories-of his-spawn father who cuts him down in front of his friends and criticizes Colin to the point of nearly breaking the kid. When Colin has a bad finish in a game where he misses two foul shots and the school loses, you can see the cloud of disapproval emanating from his father, which prompts Colin to break down into tears in the locker room. Colin is so serious to his craft he practically misses out on a social life. Suffice it to say, Colin is kindred spirit to Emilio Estevez's obsessed wrestler Andrew Clark in "The Breakfast Club."

Jake Tusing is a hodgepodge between Judd Nelson's social misfit John Bender and Anthony Michael Hall's Brian Johnson. Jake, however, is neither a rebel nor on-the-face book smart. Instead, Jake is an alienated, acne-blasted gamer and marching band guy where almost nobody acknowledges his presence. Throughout "American Teen," we see Jake in a series of miscues and dating flubs due to his lack of confidence. When he does manage to wrangle down a girlfriend, his geeky nature inadvertently sends her into the arms of a beefy mullethead, also in the school's band.

What "American Teen" has going for it is a willingness to tap into the sheer cruelty kids inflict upon each other. As the film itself is shot guerilla style, the guerilla tactics utilized by the kids in this thing makes for compelling viewing. While there's no girls knocking other girls' teeth out on camera for the sake of getting famous on YouTube and MySpace, we do see the vindictive nastiness inflicted upon a girl who sends a topless photo of herself to her boyfriend, which is then shared and intercepted for mass distribution over the school body's emails and cell phones. That's humiliating enough, but to witness Megan and her snotty clan badger the poor girl over the phone with taunts over her nipple size, that's taking things to a raw and despicable level.

"American Teen" purports itself to be a real-time reflection of a generation facing the exact same problems of immorality, rough treatment and comeuppance as anyone else's age bracket. The difference here is that "American Teen" is a by-product of a high-def dweebism caricaturized through animated segments in the film that reflect the musings of the cast. The fact that kids can sneak notes to each other in class via Blackberries instead of traditional pen and paper is a sign of the times which "American Teen" hones in on, putting this "Can you hear me now?" moment into a time capsule much as John Waters' "Brat Pack" did for Generation X in 1985.