Movie review: “Teenage” doc can’t find focus in concept

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From the May 8, 2014 edition

If there’s one current through the ethos of teenager-hood, it’s that attitude of “you’re too old, man. You don’t get it.”

Well, I almost feel too young for the patchwork documentary “Teenager,” which has a fairly well-executed idea that just didn’t suit my expectations.

“Teenage” explains to us that the very concept of the teenager is a historically recent distinction, the in-between of childhood and adulthood. And, like many of the things that shape the world, it was born out of war.

Director Matt Wolf takes a collection of archival footage of teens and plays it against actors reading from the diaries of teens from the first half of the 20th century.

“Teenage” has moments that are quite intriguing, but, like a teenager, it can’t seem to decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

The voices range from pre-war London teens to post-war Jitterbug American teens to, yes, even the Hitler Youth. The awakening of the teenage consciousness is an idea that gets beat to death, though I question why the film doesn’t explore this over more generations.

It’s an intriguing idea with some amazing stock footage. It just didn’t come together for me.