MPI // 2011 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // March 22nd, 2012
Time to wake up!
In David Robert Mitchell's feature debut The Myth of the American Teenager, a group of youngsters embark on a quest for adventure on the very last night before the start of the new school year. Some of them look for love, and others just look for their first kiss. Some are in search of the best party ever, while others simply crave a simple sense of pleasure among close friends. Some try to fit in, and others plan to go all out. Needless to say, every one of these suburban teens heads into this final night of freedom with an agenda, hoping to find their share of the late summer fun before textbooks, exams, curfews, and the much dreaded high school gossip kick back into full gear.
The central plot of the movie is fairly simplistic, Mitchell's script following a few key characters as they stroll around town looking for something to do. Maggie (Claire Sloma) and her best friend cruise the neighborhood for a decent party; Claudia (Amanda Bauer) tries to make friends with strangers at a sleepover; Rob (Marlon Morton) wanders around in the hopes of running into an attractive girl he spotted at the supermarket; Scott (Brett Jacobsen) tracks down twins (Nikita and Jade Ramsey) he may be in love with. As the night progresses, each of the kids are confronted with new decisions and feelings that will inspire them to seize the moment and hope for the best, before they'll more than likely cross each other in the hallways of school.
Even though it showed at Cannes and SXSW, Mitchell's film only scored a limited theatrical release, thus reducing the domestic exposure it deserved. Paying homage to films like Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, The Myth of the American Sleepover succeeds in generating a series of genuine moments many viewers will be able to relate to and quite possibly identify with. Although not a traditional coming-of-age tale, the film does put considerable emphasis on character development, which compensates for a lack of conventional storytelling.
Focusing on several people over the course of one night keeps the movie flowing at a decent pace, though several sequences tend to drag on a bit too long. Then again, a majority of those moments boast intelligent, authentic dialogue, which makes these characters come across as convincing individuals going through their teenage years. Scripts often tend to be more plausible and engaging, if they stem from personal experiences of the writer, and Mitchell made sure to draw from his own past.
Though the cast is comprised of many newcomers, none of them come across as awkward or uncomfortable. You'll find plenty of believable performances, further overshadowing the fact that the story is quite thin. Either way, many of these performance show a great deal of promise.
The Myth of the American Sleepover also features several interesting montages characterized by an adequate selection of music and minimal use of dialogue. This not only gives the plot some space, but also provides opportunity for James Laxton to showcase his gorgeous cinematography. Laxton gives the film the "independent" look it needs to be visually intriguing, putting emphasis on how to best capture the characters as they navigate their environment. A scene showing Maggie and her buddy riding bikes across town, and a tantalizing sequence between Scott and the twins by the pool are particularly memorable.
On DVD, The Myth of the American Sleepover looks fantastic. The standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer does Laxton's cinematography justice, with an image that's clear and sharp, boasting solid vibrance and contrast. Even though the majority of the film takes place at night in dark environments, Mitchell's crew did a fantastic job with lighting, helping to avoid major grain issues. In terms of audio, the disc sports a perfectly acceptable Dolby 5.1 Surround mix. Don't go looking for any special features though; a trailer is all that's included.
Films boasting a slower pace and simpler story tend to attract small audiences, and though that's certainly the case with The Myth of the American Sleepover, the film exudes a feeling of genuineness that's hard to ignore. Blessed with clever dialogue and interesting characters, this is an indie gem worth recommending.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site