Lin's assured and electric tale of good kids gone bad might be just another run-of-the-mill exercise in flashy adolescent nihilism were it not for the cleverly atypical way in which he confronts the material. By setting his film in a nondescript affluent California neighborhood and focusing on Asian-American characters who have their lives totally under control, the director finds a new avenue into the rather tired realm of suburban exposes uncovering the angst and anger lying just beneath the communities' cheery and docile facades. Ben and his friends are, in some respects, stereotypical well-to-do Asian-American students: studious, motivated, passive, and anonymous amidst their predominantly white classmates. Their lives are dominated by the single-minded desire to get into a good college, and they all work furiously at participating in numerous extracurricular activities (working in hospitals, playing on the basketball team, competing on the academic decathlon team) to bolster their college applications. They're like well-oiled machines, robotically tearing through high school as if the only worthwhile goal in life is a perfect GPA and early acceptance to an Ivy League school, and their wholesomeness is humorously alluded to by Lin's use of Jerry Mathers (aka "The Beaver") as Ben's biology teacher.
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