Plot: What’s it about?
Rena Grubb (Jena Malone) has a less than ideal life, as she lives in a rundown trailer park, has a father in prison with a life sentence, and she just learned that she is pregnant. The last element could be a positive, but she is just a teen, has no money, and doesn’t have the love of her boyfriend. In fact, her boyfriend Denton (Erik von Detten) is a total jerk and has rejected her desires to raise the child together, leaving her on her own. Her family is of minimal assistance, as they have problems of their own and rifts run through the household, mostly due to the father’s current residence in prison. In the end, Rena just wants some kind of escape from her intense situation, an escape that seems impossible. She even turns to suicide, but even after numerous attempts, she remains alive and with child. In desperation, she begins to think her father might have the answers she needs, despite the not so smooth relationship the two have shared. A chance to see if he can help arises when a family picnic is offered to relatives of inmates, an event only Rena wants to attend. But after intense persuasion, Rena talks her entire family into heading off to visit her father. The day is as unpredictable as possible, with all manner of mishaps, but also some genuine family moments. But at the end of this wild day, will Rena have the answers she needs, or at least some kind of direction in her life?
This film, better known as just American Girl, wasn’t given a proper theatrical release and now, three years later, MGM has issued the movie on DVD. An extended timeframe like that isn’t often good, as studios hold back films for a reason in most cases. So is Confessions of an American Girl a clunker that deserves such a lamented treatment, or this is just a mishandled release? The film is a dark, dark comedy about white trash, suicide, incest, and teen pregnancy. I know these don’t seem like elements common to comedies, but the potential for a great movie is housed here. But in the end, the filmmakers cannot balance all the ingredients and the movie turns into somewhat of a mess. Not a bad movie, but one that never delivers on its promise, which makes it that much more of a disappointment. If a movie has a bad cast, poor premise, and lame direction, you expect it to be bad, but when a movie has great elements and still fails, it stings much deeper. The cast of Confessions of an American Girl is superb, with Jena Malone (Donnie Darko, Saved!) in another solid turn and Alicia Witt (Cecil B. DeMented, Urban Legend), Brad Renfro (The Cure, Apt Pupil), and Erik von Detten (The Princess Diaries, Tv’s Dinotopia) in sizable roles. But these and other skilled actors are forced to work through thin material and missed chances, which is reflected in their performances. I had high hopes for this movie and in truth, aside from a few memorable scenes, I was quite disappointed. MGM’s disc tells the tale, as minimal effort was put into this release, which leaves me to recommend a rental, if you’re interested.
Video: How does it look?
Confessions of an American Girl is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was pretty pleased with the treatment offered here, as the image is quite sharp and shows minimal flaws, good work indeed. I did see a few scenes that looked a little dark, but usually the contrast is dead on, so no real worries there. The colors look vivid and bright, with no errors I could detect, while flesh tones were natural throughout. I also saw no traces of compression flaws, which leaves me to score this one well, another great transfer from MGM.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a dialogue driven comedic picture after all, so the included 2.0 surround track isn’t that explosive, but it does sound good enough. The surrounds are used in some scenes for impact reasons, but most of the time the music is the sole resident, although that is by no means a bad notion. The mix comes off as very natural and that’s important, as hollow sounding mixes with unneeded surround presence are horrific, if you ask me. The vocals come through clean and crisp at all times, with no problems in the least to discuss. This disc also includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
No bonus materials are included.