Coming of age doc doesn't linger but leaves a mark
“All This Panic” has been felt before in Hollywood. This time, however, the story is real.
The coming-of-age documentary plays like a girl-power “Sucker Punch” meets one-quarter “Boyhood,” with the only fictions being the expectations the high school teens feel are placed in front of them.
“All This Panic” starts over what to wear, but as the seven Brooklyn students learn, no ensemble would be complete, of course, without college.
It's one among many societal pressures the women face as the film traces their steps over the course of three years, navigating the complicated, sometimes dirty subway of teenage life.
And although relatively few know what it's like to grow up in the Big Apple, many can still identify with the adolescent anxieties that affect the teens' very core.
For best friends Lena and Ginger, that is college. One is leaving for it, the other left behind because of it. Their story is not “All” of “Panic,” but they do become the documentary's default stars.
The other girls, however, seem to be treated as a bit more “‘This' and that.” And that's unfortunate. Their experiences, specifically Sage's and Olivia's, deal with topics over which parts of society continue to panic — sex and race — with children innocently caught in the middle.
If anything, most of the “Panic” comes from their parents. In one particular high-light — pun intended — Sage's mother can't understand why kids these days need “utensils” to smoke pot. And while Ginger's father is part “Sucker Punch” Wise Man, part “Boyhood” hip dad, he's not afraid to challenge his daughter's gumption to go out and work and, in the process, find herself.
“That's the whole point of growing older,” the scruffy, suds-drinking sage tells Ginger. “You eventually figure out what's fake about you and what's real and hopefully move on with more of the real.”
Indeed they do, challenging what they've been told to think about college, careers, love and life.
It's an intimate journey that ends too soon. If only director Jenny Gage could have eschewed the conservative runtime and expanded on more of their stories, including the parents she creatively blurs from the teenagers' points of view.
Some of the girls' changes are as apparent as Lena losing her braces. Other outcomes are left open to questions, as the stories were barely given any teeth to begin with.
Still, it's a documentary that should make audiences smile. Although the teenage subjects might be over it, there is a need for “All This Panic.”