I got thrown out a screening of Nanette Burstein‘s American Teen at the Library after seeing about 15 minutes’ worth. The heave-ho happened about 80 minutes ago. I had a ticket and everything, but because I got there late (due to my own laziness plus misplaced faith in the Park City transit system) there were no seats at all, and the woman running the Sundance volunteers insisted over the mike that no one could stand in the back. You’re in a seat or you’re out, she said.
Those are the Park City fire regulations, yes, although we’ve all stood in the back or sat on the floor before. I did this plenty of times in the ’90s.
The issue for me wasn’t that the woman insisting on following orders. The issue was that she seemed to be in the grip of one of those pinched Nurse Ratched personalities. The issue was that she had a menacing expression that might have prevented Chinese troops from crossing the 49th Parallel. The issue was that one of her volunteer colleagues kindly offered me a chair to sit on against the back wall, and then this butch boss came along and escorted me outside.
The issue, also, honestly, was that I didn’t give that much of a shit in the end because Burstein’s film didn’t seem all that interesting or original. I was saying to myself less than five minutes in, “This is nothing new. I’ve seen this shit dozens of times. I know it backwards and forwards. Something else has to happen. Someone’s going to die in a car accident, get cancer…something. This is too familiar.
I was also saying, “Oh, no…is that volunteer looking at me? Look at the screen and ignore her. You belong here, you were invited…think positively! Oh, shit, here she comes…”
Slickly designed (I saw a couple of cool CG animation sequences) and scored with lots of punch, American Teen is a study of four seniors at a small Indiana high school. I couldn’t believe the film was about the same old stereotypes as we’ve seen in I don’t know how many teen dramas, including Election. A basketball hero jock, a goodie-goodie blonde cheerleader type, a nerdish male musician with bad skin who’s into video games, and a nerdy female who plays rhythm guitar. Good heavens!
Don’t we all know this story? And especially how it’s going to turn out? The nerds are probably going to turn into cool adults and lead interesting lives, and the jocks and the cheerleaders, suffering under the ancient Chinese curse that says “may you peak in high school,” are going to put on weight, lead ordinary lives, have “work” done when they hit 45, possibly become alcoholic, have kids who may wind up ignoring them when they leave the house, and so on.
Unless the reviews are over the moon, I think it might be a good idea to shine American Teen and wait for the HBO airing or a screener or whatever.