American Teen

American Teen is a documentary that takes place throughout the lives of four teens in their senior year. Basically, you have the real-life breakfast club. There is the rebel, Hannah. The jock, Colin. The prom queen, Megan, and the geek, Jake. It’s a film that deals with the pressures of the future while nearing the end of school. Are the grades good enough to get into a dream college? Is it possible to get a scholarship? Will life be worse after school?

Megan is the smart girl with the looks. She spends every afternoon working on the student council to give her an edge towards her college ambitions. Her father is always implying for her to work hard to get into the college he wants her to go to, like he and her siblings before her went. It’s a prestigious college, so she needs to be at the top of her game. She is also your typical queen bee who attacks the characters of others. As you later find out she has a reason for being the way she is. Hannah is the quirky outsider. She loves music, film, photography. She wants to leave Warsaw and move to California to become a director. She starts to become absent from school when her boyfriend breaks up with her. You learn that she is on antidepressants and this worries her because she believes she will have manic depression like her mother. Colin is the basketball star of the school. He comes from a family that can’t afford to send him away to college, so he must get a scholarship, or his dad says he will be joining the army. His dad himself was once there and now works as an Elvis impersonator. Colin starts to slip up when he needs to show his best for the games that scouters show up for. Jake is the typical geek in the band. His only real goal is to get a girlfriend. He does succeed in getting a few dates but still lacks the common interests and understanding of the other.

This documentary may be called American Teen, but the troubles are universal to everyone that went through school, no matter what clique you belonged to. Each person is seen to have their own massive pressure weigh down on them toward their ambitions. It is especially interesting to see how the parents handle their kids. From the start they are almost telling them how to succeed through school and by the end they are the people that can help their kids through their troubled times, letting them no whatever happens they will be ok. There are quite a few interesting animated segments that show the personality of each person and how they see the world. As a documentary, a lot does feel contrived. Many questions arise as to say how can these filmmakers possibly let these kids do some of the nasty things they do. One example is a naked picture is spread throughout the school. Apart from that, it is a very emotional journey for these teens to go through.

Being a teen is hard. We have the director to thank for showing us the lives of four very different individuals with very similar fears. There is a lot to relate to here. It is far from a fantastic documentary, but maybe it will give you an understanding of the different people we were back in high school.

Robert Ring

Amy

The title of this documentary is perfect. It’s a portrait of a person and not the superstar creation of Amy Winehouse that the press made her image into.

This is the first documentary I’ve seen that completely uses archival footage without the use of talking heads and instead uses voice over. This technique gives the film another layer because the voices become cries of what could have been done while the whole time we watch Amy’s face become more desperate for help as her years pass. To be honest I didn’t know much about Amy Winehouse, nor did I know much of her music, and like most people I was led to believe she was in lack of a better word “trash”. She was bulimic, she was a drug abuser and she was an alcoholic. What we get from this documentary is that she began to spiral because of heartbreak and fall again and again with the growing pressures of fame her music was creating for her. There is no exact way to pinpoint what it was that led to her death, be it relationships, fame or drugs, then again that’s not what this documentary is about. We do see that she was already gone in the days, weeks and maybe even years up to the day of her death, but you can be the judge of that.

Amy is more than just a frightening look into the life of Amy Winehouse, but a fantastic documentary that has you feeling more and more respondent the further it goes and the closer you know you are getting to her end.

Check out Amy and see her charismatic and shy beginnings to tragedy in this haunting documentary.

4/5 – Stars for Amy

Robert Ring