Sunday, October 18, 2009

Teens in Film - 1999: 10 Things I Hate About You vs American Beauty

Introduction to the Hypothesis

Emma's Teen Movie's blog-a-thon has got me thinking...

I think sometimes we don't take the young actors and actresses in teen films seriously enough.

No, I'm not talking about teens with breakout roles who bust out on the scene like Ellen Page in Juno. I'm talking about teens in show up in teen oriented movies that are under the radar, maybe only popular by the teen crowd.

My hypothesis is some of the bigger careers for teen stars come out the more "common" and less-acclaimed films.

I am going to use a limited sampling of two films from 1999.

1999: 10 Things I Hate About You & American Beauty

1999 had it's share of teen films of all varieties (She's All That, Never Been Kissed, Election, Jawbreaker, But I'm A Cheerleader, American Pie, Detroit Rock City, The Blair Witch Project, Cruel Intentions).

But in addition to these, my favorite that year was 10 Things I Hate About You which stared Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Krumholtz, Gabriel Union and Larisa Oleynik.
Yet there was another 1999 movie that wasn't a teen film but stared some strong teen roles, and that was the popular Oscar-winning film American Beauty. Teen stars who deserved their praise included Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, and Mena Suvari.

As for 10 Things, we know that some of these actors, particularly the males all have established their own film identities and are respected in their roles and career, the most obvious being the late-Ledger but even Krumholtz headlines his own television (Numbers). Oleynik never really busted out and Stiles while gaining teen momentum hasn't seemed to break from that yet, and it's hard to imagine what her career has in store.

As for the American Beauty teens, I think in my heart I am waiting for all three of them to establish themselves as common and identifiable actors who don't need to be tied to their 1999 success. I truly believe the talent is there and they are more than one-trick ponies. But despite some various credits none of them have had that stand out role to make them household names.

I think to be honest you have to say that more consistent stars probably came out of 10 Things I Hate About You then American Beauty. Talent might be debatable, but stardom and bankability does not.

The Need For Teen Actors To Reinvent Themselves

It seems like the secret to post-teen stardom is using the platform of your previous roles to land you a role in other films, but not to limit yourself to your previous success.

Most teen stars get more roles, but what they do with those follow-up roles makes all the difference.

Teen stars have to move out of the teen scene and reinvent themselves.

In recent years, in addition to someone like Ledger, Keira Knighley (Bend it Like Beckham) or Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries) have tried different things that have established them as post-teen actresses.

I think many times we fail to notice the teen acclaimed performances and anchor on those as the potential stars of tomorrow, but the reality is that some of these more popular less-acclaimed performances could be the true stars of tomorrow. Just as Michael J. Fox, Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, and Sean Penn (that guy from Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

And I think we all know it never hurts to be on the Mickey Mouse Club. So maybe we should be more proactive and open to thinking about the High School Musical kids as potential stars, or any other new face that enters the Hollywood teen romance or comedy scene. These truly could be tomorrow's next stars.

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