Hannah Bailey stars in American Teen
By CAINE GARDNER
You will fall in love with Hannah Bailey. That is the one thing I can guarantee after watching the documentary American Teen. Teen is the latest doc from Academy Award nominated director Nanette Burstein and is being billed as a modern day Breakfast Club.
The film follows five students at Warsaw High School and all the archetypes are there. The rebel (Bailey), the jock (Colin Clemens), the geek (Jake Tusing), the heartthrob (Mitch Reinholt) and the princess (Megan Krizmanich). Although each student is given equal screen time, it is Hannah that is the star. Her wicked wit and freshness sets her apart from her classmates. She is the embodiment of much of the emotions that we all felt in high school. She's strong-willed, filled with doubt, bigger than life and a vulnerable as a child -- everything we once were.
Pressure is something that is overtly present in the student's life in the flick. For Colin, there's the pressure of getting an athletic scholarship; for Megan, it's getting into Notre Dame; for Jake, it's getting the girl and for Hannah, it's going after her dream of filmmaking. Add the typical high school hijinks and something interesting is bound to happen.
It's difficult to say how much "reality" is in this documentary, but it's entertaining nevertheless.
The one character I had a difficult time with was Megan. Throughout the beginning of the film, she comes off as a spoiled little rich girl, who stomps her foot every time she doesn't get her way. Then midway through the film we learn what could be the reason partly for her behavior and your perspective of her changes. She also has one of the most emotional moments in the movie, when she gets word from Notre Dame about her future.
Another emotional moment in the flick occurs when Hannah is dumped by her boyfriend and becomes a recluse, skipping out on school for an extended period of time. She talks to her father, who comes in from Ohio and escorts her to school. As they get closer and closer, you can see her anxiety level rise and once they get to the school parking lot, the image is heartbreaking.
Some of the moments that took strolling down memory lane back to high school featuring Jake. His awkwardness with the opposite sex and his doubting of himself will send most audience goers slamming back to their freshman year. You spend the entirety of the film feeling pity for poor Jake but he finally gets a little happiness in his life by way of San Diego in the form of Leslie, a girl he met at his brother's wedding.
The parents of the film astounded me. The pressure they put on their kids -- they seemed oblivious to it. It was also amazing how the smallest words from parents can have huge ramification on a teenage soul. When Hannah is arguing with her parents about going to San Francisco to study film, her mother informs her she can't expect to get everything she wants out of life and follows it up by declaring; "You're not special." You could see the hurt on the teenager's face.
Final Cut: American Teen is a wonderfully touching film that will leave you laughing, crying, reminiscing and being ever so thankful those days are over. The filmmaker does a great job capturing a difficult period of life that we sometimes gloss over as the years go by. Oh yeah, one last thing -- you're gonna fall in love with Hannah Bailey.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some strong language, sexual material, some drinking and brief smoking -- all involving teens.