The brainchild of Memphis businessman Robert Compton, Two Million Minutes takes its title from the amount of time most students spend in high school absorbing, one hopes, enough math, science, literature and history to compete in an increasingly flat, competitive world.
It contrasts Brittany’s and Neil’s easy suburban lives with those of two Indian teenagers and two Chinese teenagers, making the case that the foreign students are just plain hungrier for success.
“You just want to shake America and say, ‘Wake up. We are falling behind daily,’ ” Compton says.
And Two Million Minutes finds plenty to be worried about: not enough study or homework time, not enough parental pressure, not enough focus on math or engineering. American teens, it argues, are preoccupied with sports, after-school jobs and leisure.
The film repeatedly contrasts foreign students’ drive with what seems like American cluelessness: In one scene, Chinese 17-year-old Hu Xiaoyuan diligently practices the violin — then we cut to bone-crunching rock ‘n’ roll and the Friday night lights of Carmel’s top-ranked football team.
In another, an Indian science teacher explains an experiment to students, then snaps, “Why are you standing simply there?”
But the scene that seems to get audiences worked up most shows Brittany and friends watching Grey’s Anatomy as they study.