Susan Granger’s review of “The Myth of the American Sleepover” (IFC Films)
Suburban Detroit, Michigan, youth culture is explored in first-time writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s saga of adolescent angst, following several teenagers searching for sexual connections on their last night of summer vacation before the new school year begins.
There’s Maggie (Claire Sloma), an incoming freshman who ditches an all-girl slumber party to look for excitement with Steven (Doug Diedrich), a cynical poolboy. On her drinking and skinny-dipping spree, Maggie’s accompanied by her bespectacled pal Beth (Annette DeNoyer). Meanwhile, Claudia (Amanda Bauer), a new girl in town, incites jealousy when she kisses the wrong boy in the cellar of his girlfriend’s house. Toting his sleeping bag, Rov (Marlon Morton) is ostensibly off to a ‘guy’ sleepover but he’s so obsessed with finding a pretty blonde he saw in the supermarket that he’s oblivious to the homosexual crush his buddy Marcus (Wyatt McCallum) has on him. And after being dumped by his girlfriend, college junior Scott (Brett Jacobsen) virtually stalks a pair of incoming freshmen twins, Ada and Anna Abbey (Jade and Nikita Ramsey), who are attending an orientation sleepover in the college gym.
Confused teenage misfits have been film fodder since James Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause” ignited the imagination of several generations. John Hughes added comedic sensitivity with “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink,” among others, while Michael Lehmann’s “Heathers” focused on satire. TV’s “Glee” continues to update the genre.
“I wanted to deal with that time in our lives when we feel things more intensely,” Mitchell says, acknowledging how much he was influenced by George Lucas’s “American Graffiti,” including its clichés. “I wasn’t so interested in the rigid structure of jocks and nerds but how people interact when they’re in a space together.”
Winning the ensemble-acting award at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival, the novice cast performs admirably but uneven pacing makes the generic dramedy drag on longer than it should.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Myth of the American Sleepover” is an impressionistically sweet 7, a poignant coming-of-age drama.