American Teen 2008

Critics score:
69 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: Burstein may not know when to back off, but she's genuinely curious about all she sees. I bet audiences, particularly young audiences, will respond to this picture. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: The movie does get under your skin, but the way it has been put together reminds me of those animal shows where the crew nudges the gazelles in the direction of the lions with multiple cameras standing by. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: This being senior year, Burstein can't help but capture some genuine drama, but there's a stage-managed quality to the movie that reminded me of MTV reality shows. Read more

John Hartl, Seattle Times: Eventually Burstein moves past these objections and slips under your skin. Read more

Ruth Hessey, MovieTime, ABC Radio National: My only gripe is that the relentless pressure to be a winner in American culture is exhausting to watch. Read more

Scott Tobias, AV Club: It's easy for anyone who survived (or is surviving) high school to feel twinges of identification. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: By the end of the film, you'll be firmly on the side of each of these kids, hoping the best for them. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: Consciously or not, the movie's about the way we structure our lives as drama if we want them to have any meaning at all. Read more

Michael Ordona, Los Angeles Times: The kids' mistakes make you cringe -- often with laughs of recognition -- and, during the film's most involving moments, makes you long to comfort them through their trials and cheer on their triumphs. Read more

Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle: They all have their stories tell, some more complicated than others. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: Burstein does indeed capture some of the awkwardnesses that we can all relate to -- the dating scene, the snubs, the cliques, the bad behavior. Read more

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: The players are timelessly familiar in American Teen. But filmmaker Nanette Burstein tells their stories with a distinctly 21st-century pop and audacity that makes this latest version of Fast Times at My So-Called Happy Days High a timely pleasure. Read more

Rick Groen, Globe and Mail: The doc seems a bit imitative itself, aping the slick manners of its poor cousin on the small screen -- reality TV. Read more

Mario Tarradell, Dallas Morning News: American Teen is The Breakfast Club in real time. Read more

Kevin Craft, Miami Herald: This is not compelling film making; it just makes you hope that these kids will lighten up and learn to enjoy life. Read more

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: Except for some obvious staging on Burstein's part, their ups and downs, doubts and dreams, all feel vividly real. Well, at least more real than anything you see on The Hills. Read more

John Anderson, Newsday: Nothing is revealed here, save for the sad fact that while young people's appetite for nonfiction film was supposed to be whetted by reality television, nonfiction film instead has turned into reality television. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: For adults, it's also, possibly, a wake-up call. Do we really put that much pressure on our children? Are we really that insensitive? Read more

Bob Mondello, At what point does the filming of kids behaving immaturely become an invasion of privacy, even if parents signed consent forms? Read more

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: In Nanette Burstein's high school documentary, every kid is either a brain, an athlete, a basket case or a princess. Still, Burstein makes a strong case that there's a lot of truth to those cliches. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: Ultra-slick and predictable. Read more

A.O. Scott, New York Times: Fascinating, queasy-making new documentary. The fascination comes from how unguarded these young people seem to be about their own lives, speaking frankly to the camera and allowing it to observe uncomfortable and intimate moments in their lives. Read more

Sara Vilkomerson, New York Observer: Ms. Burstein has infused her film with an ever-rare authenticity and manages to see beyond each kid's stereotype to the complicated screwed-up adolescent they are (and we were). Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: The whirl of hormones, high hopes and hysterical drama that is high school earns its close-up in American Teen, a smart and revealing look at the Class of 2006 in Warsaw, Indiana. Read more

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: An appealing and unexpectedly moving snapshot of 17-year-olds on the tightrope between family and future. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: This kind of production is better suited to television than movie theaters. American Teen is a pretty bauble: shiny and alluring from a distance but cheap and plastic when you get close. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: American Teen isn't as penetrating or obviously realistic as her On the Ropes, but Burstein (who won best director at Sundance 2008) has achieved an engrossing film. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: American Teen shows how a documentary can be as moving and suspenseful as the best narrative feature. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: The look and feel of American Teen is authentically 21st century, but the rites of passage it documents are timeless. Read more

Bruce Demara, Toronto Star: A moving and engrossing slice-of-life documentary about teen life in small-town Warsaw, Ind. Read more

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: It's hard not to root for these teens. Read more

Dave Calhoun, Time Out: It's a lightly amusing film but it's also an unchallenging one which reinforces presumptions about kids rather than surprising with new insights. It floats in the shallow end of filmmaking. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: Revealing, funny and involving. Read more

Dennis Harvey, Variety: Undeniably entertaining for its zippy presentation. Read more

Desson Thomson, Washington Post: What makes Nanette Burstein's movie so powerful is its uncanny sense of familiarity. Watching them, we are transported into a humming, philosophical reverie about ourselves. Read more