Charlie Lyne's entertaining documentary celebrates and dissects the teen movie
Ever since James Dean set light to the establishment in the 50s, teens have been central to cinema, both as audience and subject. Every generation since has films that define adolescence: from the antics of The Beatles and the students of Rydell High in the 60s and 70s, to the John Hughes classics of the 80s and the meta movies of the 90s and beyond.
For his entertaining debut documentary, film journalist / blogger Charlie Lyne mines this appeal, celebrating and dissecting a dizzying array of modern teen movies. Lyne's passionate knowledge is obvious from the well-researched clips, which he pieces together like a thematic jigsaw to present a sweeping overview of the genre. And his thesis – delivered via smoky narration from The Craft star Fairuza Balk – is that all these movies are variations on the same theme; the teenager as an individual is but a myth, and all will submit to the expectations of society.
It's an interesting concept, and one given credence by the coherent edit; the chosen clips showcase uniformity and repetition across films as diverse as Idle Hands, Bubble Boy and Josie and the Pussycats. The exceptional soundtrack by Summer Camp also effectively underlines Lyne's dark theories of sexual conformity and social control.
The earnest, scholarly tone may be off-putting to those not au fait with the minutiae of the genre, and some of his readings may be too outlandish even for those who are. The subtext of EuroTrip as repressed homosexual longing, for example, is questionable. Lyne's definition of a teen movie is also stretched rather thin at times, with his inclusion of films like Rushmore, American Beauty and The Dreamers sounding the occasional odd note.
Ultimately, however, Beyond Clueless is great fun and – depending on your age – either a nostalgic trip down memory lane, or a raucous introduction to some gems of the genre.
Selected release from Fri 23 Jan.