Paramount Vantage knows exactly what they’re doing with American Teen. After picking up the Nanette Burstein-directed documentary for $1 million at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the studio boutique not only claimed a prime mid-summer release date (July 25th), they decided to go wide. And when you check out this theatrical trailer, you’ll understand why. It looks like Laguna Beach/The Hills with heart.
This might bolster the film’s commercial prospects, but such slickness also raises questions about its veracity; in his review for Variety, Dennis Harvey noted that American Teen is “slick to a fault” and somewhat reminiscent of Todd Phillips’s discredited Frat House. As a fan of Burstein’s previous documentaries (On the Ropes and The Kid Stays in the Picture), I’m more than willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but there’s just no doubting that the presentation looks awfully suspect; hopefully, this is just a reflection of the kids getting overly comfortable with having a film crew around.
As you can see, Vantage is blatantly marketing American Teen as a reality homage to The Breakfast Club; it’s a beautifully phony gesture that might just confuse its target audience (“This is real, right?”). Then again, they’re so comfortable with the staged travails of Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, I’m not sure they’ll care if the line between fiction and documentary is being willfully blurred. And if it’s as entertaining as I’ve heard, I’m not sure I’ll care either.