An official selection of Cannes Critics Week and winner of the Special Jury Prize at SXSW, THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER is a youthful and tender coming-of-age drama from first-time writer/director David Robert Mitchell. In the tradition of free-wheeling tributes to adolescence like DAZED & CONFUSED, the film follows four young people (a cast of brilliant young newcomers in their feature film debuts) on the last night of summer - their final night of freedom before the new school year starts. The teenagers cross paths as they explore the suburban wonderland they inhabit in search of love and adventure - chasing first kisses, elusive crushes, popularity and parties - and discover the quiet moments that will later resonate as the best in their youth.
There are many stages of teenage life; the months before a teen begins high school, the in-the-midst of high school growing pains, and the recent graduate, who is at a crossroads in life and love seeking out the familiarity of his former high school days. In first-time writer/director David Robert Mitchell's The Myth of the American Sleepover each of these phases of life will be touched upon by the large ensemble cast who are themselves in these various stages. Taking place over the course of a couple days, and specifically one very long night where everyone in one way or another is involved in a sleepover, the journey a viewer takes with the many teenage protagonists will lead you to a place of warmth, and honesty.
The Myth of the American Sleepover reflects very much how the years of being a teenager feel. To call it nostalgic does not suffice; it not only conjures up memories of a time forgotten in the past, it recreates these moments for you to relive again. The sentimentality, the mistakes, the burgeoning of desire, or loss of innocence; the need to lie, or finally reveal the truth to someone, including yourself--these elements are all laid out in a perfect display on screen. When the pacing slows and the moments occurring feel uneventful, or like they will never end or draw a conclusion the effect is not one of boredom that takes hold of you but instead a peaceful tranquility. These are the moments you have experienced before, this is a time and place you remember, and Mitchell's direction seats you so much inside of the film that you bask in the forgettable moments of youth. The Myth of the American Sleepover does what needs to be done for teenagers on film, it accurately represents life as a teen--in all of its pent up excitement, and overlooked formalities.
With a very large ensemble cast you may forget character's names here and there, but as long as you remember their story all is right with a script. David Robert Mitchell's script is nearly flawless. He sets up each individual story with one main headlining protagonist, with the occasional overlap between characters as this is a small town where everyone gets to know everyone else at some point or another. The main points are clear, and there is not one storyline that favors another and each are just as meaningful as the next. Mitchell has created real characters in The Myth of the American Sleepover
. They are people you know from high school or those you have met along the way--they even look like real people, lacking the hollywood glamour of shiny motion picture actors playing at being normal teenagers. The dialogue is not contrived or full of useless slang in an attempt to depict how teenagers speak to one another. The epic adventures of one night are anything but epic, as time rolls by and choices are made that may seem at the moment to mean everything but come tomorrow, or next week, will be meaningless.
The Myth of the American Sleepover
is very much a film that can and should be considered in the ranks of American Graffiti
and (although obviously not a full blown comedy) Dazed & Confused
. There is even a storyline that resembles the "girl in the car" from American Graffiti
that in a subtle and most revealing way draws closure to the myth of the perfect dream girl--a myth in itself created by many a teenager boy. Watching this film is a gentle experience, and one can only walk away from it feeling fulfilled for having been a part of something wondrous.