With clips from more than 200 teen movies made in the decade after 1995's Clueless, this lively kaleidoscopic documentary entertainingly traces how America has depicted the teen experience on screen. The film's structure feels a little deliberate, and it of course is looking at a portrayal of puberty, not the real thing. But it's inventively edited by first-time feature director Charlie Lyne, with a snappy pace and some seriously interesting observations along the way.
These 10 years are significant because they marked an expansion in the style of coming-of-age movies, encompassing genres from comedy to sci-fi to horror to explore the clashes between high school factions of jocks, nerds, burnouts, artists and mean girls. Taken together, these films paint a vivid, perhaps exaggerated portrait of adolescence, including key rites of passage, the mob mentality, and the various things that feel threatening to the "herd" (like smart kids or loners). High school is the time when teens experiment with alcohol, partying, rebellion and sex, while facing up to peer pressure and their own mortality for the first time. And ultimately, everyone must navigate this emotionally overwrought period on his or her own.
The film breaks down this experience into five chapters: fitting in (as either a maverick or conformist), acting out (challenging the rules), losing yourself (developing your own identity), toeing the line (being forced to obey the rules) and moving on (growing into an adult). This kind of makes the movie feel like an academic thesis, especially with the somewhat overwritten narration (voiced by teen star Fairuza Balk). But the movie is packed with telling connections between this vast variety of movies, all of which reflect reality without ever depicting it too honestly. Thankfully, Lyne's editing is knowing and often very funny, putting scenes together to say something completely unexpected.
Continue reading: Beyond Clueless Review
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