Cast: Shayla Beesley, Josh Fallon, Jaime Perkins
Breaking Glass Pictures / NTSC Region 1 / Unrated / 1.78:1 Widescreen / Dolby 2.0 Surround / 76 minutes (press release says 88, imdb says 91)
Starting in 1970 German filmmaker Ernst Hofbauer would make a docu-style teen sex series called Schoolgirl (or Schulmädchen) Report in which teens were filmed and interviewed about their sex lives and its effect on and influence from society. In 1995 writer/director Larry Clark made one of the most unflinching, disturbing and truthful movies about the deviant and very sexual life of teenagers ever caught on celluloid with Kids. In 2004 Brian Dannelly wrote and directed Saved!, a movie that pulled no punches in its cynicism with religion concerning teens and sex, particularly Christianity. All of these are fantastic examples of the secret lives of teenagers and its consequences. I am adding another film to that list; Jan Wellmann’s cinéma vérité Sex and the U.S.A.
Audrey and her family have recently moved from New Jersey to a rather religious and conservative community in California. She decides to join an abstinence group in school to fit in and to shoot a documentary, with the help of her friend Ryan, about it because she feels it’s important that teens know the truth about sex. Shortly after joining she meets Krista, the hot blonde wild-child who takes the no sex pledge to the edge; doing everything but. They become fast friends and Audrey becomes confused about her feelings for Krista and fears for her safety as she draws Audrey in to her brazen sexual flirtations. The girls even set up a Myspace page to post sexy pictures and videos of themselves called “Angel Girls”. Things begin to spiral out of control with sex, drugs and Christianity until the inevitable dark consequences.
There are types of films where the hand-held, documentary style of cinematography doesn’t work. But for a movie like this, it is like a soul mate. The voyeuristic and prying eyes of the camera leer into the private social interactions of realistic teens. The editing in of Youtube, Myspace and real news reports adds to the realism because this is supposed to be the project of fourteen year old Audrey. There are also interviews with various people in her life; her parents, the abstinence group teacher and her friends and acquaintances who give their opinions and experiences with sex and life. Stand-out Shayla Beesley (a hotter Thora Birch) who plays the cute, insightful and confused documentarian Audrey is completely charming and relatable. One thing I can’t stand about a lot of movies is a “teen” cast who looks like thirty year-olds. Not so in this one. The entire cast looks age appropriate, meaning that it’s almost uncomfortable to see them snorting coke and sucking dick… almost.
Movies like this toe the line on being exploitive, most of the time tripping over the line and landing right on their faces. That’s not a bad thing. Jan Wellman’s film is a thoughtful, and somewhat cynical look at the mis-information that teens are inundated with by religion and the media and society’s blind eye towards the truth. But to show the real deal, you have to exploit the still tight bodies of the young and he does, like those before him. And I’m glad he does. With scenes of blow-job line-ups, Extacy-fueled pool parties, and drunken virgin rape, there is no shortage of exploitive elements. But he never goes too far showing full nudity or gratuitous teen tits. All of the fuck up-ed-ness is clearly shown to further the story and give us an idea what our next generation is up to behind closed doors.
I am very impressed with my first film by Breaking Glass Pictures. They are known for their horror releases and are just getting into the erotic/exploitation genres. They seem to be a pretty fearless DVD distribution company handling gay and lesbian releases, Unearthed Films and sleazy horror star Ryan Nicholson’s films to name a few. Sex and the U.S.A. would not be put out by a lot of companies because it kind of defies genre restraints. I watched the movie yesterday and it’s still resonating with me today, that’s the sign of a great movie. I am very excited about their next erotic titles, Sex Stories (July) and Final Girl (August) and will share my thoughts on those as well. Stay tuned!