The Myth of the American Sleepover (David Robert Mitchell, 2010): USA
Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed at Mann’s Chinese Theater as part of the 2010 AFI Film Festival.
In what could more aptly be named The Myth of the Unsupervised Teenager, teens run rampant at all hours of the night with nary an adult in sight in director David Robert Mitchell’s somewhat surreal ensemble coming of age drama The Myth of the American Sleepover.
On the last day of Summer vacation impending high school freshmen Maggie (Claire Sloma) and her friend Beth (Annette DeNoyer) hang out at the town pool, ride their bikes to older boys houses, and get drunk and go swimming at a high school party, all while taking every opportunity to make out with multiple boys along the way.
College student Scott (Brett Jacobsen) is back in town after his breakup with his girlfriend and he tracks down the Abbey twins (Jade and Nikita Ramsey), one of whom he had a crush on, but he actually wouldn’t mind having both of them.
New student Claudia (Amanda Bauer) attends a sleepover where she knows nobody, gets drunk, and makes out with the host’s boyfriend.
In a carbon copy of the Richard Dreyfuss character in American Graffiti, Rob (Marlon Morton) sees a blonde in a grocery store and spends the rest of the film trying to find her convinced that if he doesn’t find her tonight that he will miss his chance with her forever. His search leads him all over the neighborhood and eventually to a dark, anonymous makeout warehouse.
The film is bursting with budding sexuality. Kids makeout like crazy with multiple people, most of the time not even caring who their partner is, nearly everyone has a crush on someone, older sisters leave the door open when they’re taking their baths, and a threesome with twins is given serious consideration.
Not since Children of the Corn have adults been so glaringly absent and children had the run of the town. It seems every kid in the neighborhood is either attending a sleepover or a keg party. There also do not appear to be any consequences to their actions. A couple of teens polish off an entire bottle of Vodka in the early morning hours after an entire night of drinking and they don’t have a hangover? In fact, the girl participates in the parade that afternoon without any apparent effects from the night and morning before.
The director also seems confused about when his story is taking place. Scott has a hairstyle that never made it past 1982, yet Maggie, a supposed impending high school freshman, has facial piercings. The film has traits anywhere from the 1950’s to 2010 and this is a problem. Making a film that transcends the era in which it takes place is ideal, but what the director has done here is make a film that has no era.
Mitchell does succeed in directing a large cast of primarily non professionals, getting a very natural performance from all of them making some of the more poignant moments resound.
Mitchell appears to intend his film to be a nostalgic amalgam of teenage experiences, but it doesn’t quite achieve its goal. The film seems caught in between being an accurate depiction of early teen years to being a surreal, exaggerated depiction to make its point. This apparent indecision hurts the film because we just don’t know how seriously to take it. Is this an exaggerated moment or do you really mean it? For every moment we relate to there are several more that feel false. While the film has its moments it needed to be either more realistic or a bit more outlandish to really succeed.