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  • Jennifer Green

Review: "My So-Called High School Rank"

COVID's impact on high school students is evident in this documentary, which pivots to a very different story when the pandemic shuts down society. When My So-Called High School Rank begins, an interesting story unfolds about a high school musical that struck such an emotional chord with students that it was being adapted all across the United States and in vastly different communities.

When COVID strikes, it doesn't just impact the students and their theater productions in this film, it changes the focus of the documentary as a whole. That's a little confusing in the middle of a film, no matter how understandable the motivation is.


But what's really interesting about this documentary is how it continues to hold your attention in this transition as it launches into a new focus on the young people's lives in general. The kids are all right, but some of them face vast inequalities, including poverty, communities damaged by substance abuse, and gatekeepers that determine their future after high school.


The film flips around between subjects and locations, and sometimes seems to get sidetracked by events like the Black Lives Matter protests or long-ish interviews with some parents but not others. The teens are widely diverse yet similar in their age-appropriate expression of their hopes for the future. And they all seem to be grappling with stress, the topic of the original musical. The film comes back to the theater piece at the end, but by then you feel you've moved on to a different movie.

 

Read the full review at Common Sense Media.

Images courtesy of HBO Max.

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