Writer-director Bart Layton follows up his 2012 debut The Imposter, a documentary with dramatic tendencies about an older man pretending to be a troubled youth, with the fact-based American Animals, a drama with documentary tendencies about troubled youths pretending to be older men. Barry Keoghan stars as dissatisfied art school student Spencer Reinhard, while Evan Peters plays Spencer’s best friend and bad influence, Warren Lipka. Although they did not have criminal records or experience, Spencer and Warren attempted a foolhardy heist at Transylvania University in 2004, attempting to rob the Rare Book Room of valuable prints by Darwin and Audubon. Rather than a straightforward biopic, Layton intercuts talking-head interviews of the actual people involved into (sometimes contradictory) recreations of the events, and even allows Lipka and Reinhard to interact with the actors. This sort of self-awareness usually works on me like catnip, but Layton’s concept of meta-cinema feels extremely basic.