DVD Review: The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)
Editor’s Notes: The Myth of the American Sleepover is out on DVD February 28th and is being distributed by IFC Films.
No two people have ever experienced the same high school exposure. For that matter, not every teenager has had the exact reaction to a given situation growing up, especially during the height of peer pressure. Maybe that’s why The Myth of the American Sleepover is titled as such. There are times when the movie keenly resembles the teen characters it features: bold and unguarded. We’re taken to the suburbs of Detroit, to the weekend just before all the youngsters begin their next step in their academic lives. All the central characters want to accomplish something special before it all begins: Maggie (Claire Sloma) wants to experience romance; Claudia (Amanda Bauer) is looking to expand her friend base; Scott (Brett Jacobsen) wants to see where it goes with a set of twins he once knew; and Rob (Marlon Morton) is looking for, well, a blonde cutie he met in the supermarket.
From its brisk beginning, we are given the first-hand knowledge that this isn’t your usual ride through the “dramedy” theme park. Right away, The Myth of the American Sleepover doesn’t play games; it lets us know who these teens are, their momentary ‘angst’ for the rest of the story, and their journey towards resolution. The pitch is straightforward. If only the rest of the movie was that confident, or even consistent with its mini-bombastic introduction.
Right away, The Myth of the American Sleepover doesn’t play games; it lets us know who these teens are, their momentary ‘angst’ for the rest of the story, and their journey towards resolution. The pitch is straightforward.
The overall essence of the movie is to ‘go for it”. I’m all for that, in a deep sort of sense. Look, we were all teenagers at some point. Love, rejection and a sense of accomplishment were the experience price tags that almost all of us paid. But at the time when we paid it, it was a rush, not a hipster-like sleepwalk. This is a night where dozens of emotions should have been in the air, and on the screen. That’s real life. What is displayed here is far from that.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell created some damn fine scenarios for our young adventurers in his filmmaking debut. He captured their journeys, and even injected some small details within them. All of it was crafted to really showcase something special. However, none of that took advantage of the true potential. If he wanted the style and the vibe of the movie to play it cool, that’s fine. But don’t make the character traits match the style. That sort of filmmaking can work (it’s been done before), but it has to be appropriate to the story. In this case, hearts should have been racing. Joy and sorrow should have been overflowing like lava, and when the resolution was reached, damn it you should have felt it. Hell, there was one point where one of them gets punched in the face, really freaking hard. His/her reaction to it, down the road? It was the same as every other reaction expressed when something exciting happened to a character: cool as a cucumber.
All of it was crafted to really showcase something special. However, none of that took advantage of the true potential. If he wanted the style and the vibe of the movie to play it cool, that’s fine. But don’t make the character traits match the style. That sort of filmmaking can work (it’s been done before), but it has to be appropriate to the story.
Unless I’m totally oblivious to how teenagers act today (which I highly doubt since I have a nephew in the same age range as our characters), if you just got punched like Mr. T gave it to Rocky, you would NOT be channeling James Dean. If it happened to an adult, I can believe that, but this happened to a hormonal teen. The monotone reactions by the characters to their given situations was just deflating, and while it was maddening at first, in the end it was just sad. It kept the situations from being funny, being sad, from being anything that resembles a true momentary pulse.
The voyages of the characters and the movie itself could have been something absolutely special. Not only did it have the right situations to make them shine, it even had the right kind of cast for it. Though these actors were mostly inexperienced, as an ensemble they put on a solid show, considering how they were told to ‘act’ in reaction to any given situation. And I get it, I understand this approach to the movie is in keeping with the mentality & vibe of the indie film circuit, but there is a time and place for that. It just didn’t belong here, on an incredibly special night for these adolescents. What an inappropriate, blown opportunity.