Foreign & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video ">
Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video
THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER
Both fresh and familiar, The Myth of the American Sleepover unfolds quietly in an iconic place and state of life (and the movies) that seem frozen in time—a suburban idyll of a hot summer day and night right before the start of the new school year.
In a sylvan Michigan suburb untouched by the recession, the hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer mean the last moments of freedom for teens who cross paths during a beautiful day in the neighborhood—at sports practice, while shopping with mom at the supermarket, hanging around the pool, and waiting to watch a meteor shower. Incoming freshmen ride bikes, while seniors pick up a sister or girlfriend in cars, girls flirt with boys mowing lawns, and everyone’s sneaking beers and cigarettes.
Debut writer/director David Robert Mitchell pays immediate tribute to George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) when Rob (Marlon Morton) anticipates high school as an upcoming feast of older girls. Like Richard Dreyfuss nearly 40 years earlier, Rob ogles a mysterious blonde and sets out to find her during the rest of the day and night. Sophomore Maggie (Claire Sloma) rebelliously flaunts her piercings to waste no time hitting on older boys, including a drunken senior who waxes self-consciously nostalgic for sleepovers: “We were tricked into giving up childhood.” Scott (Brett Jacobsen) can’t bring himself to go back to college in Chicago, and would rather track down Ady and Anna Abbey (Nikita and Jade Ramsey), the cute twins a year behind him. He has always wondered if one had a crush on him (ah, but which one?), so he crashes their freshman orientation sleepover at the University of Michigan. The social stratification by gender and age determines which party all will go to that night (not that the boys want to call theirs a sleepover).
The girls scare themselves playing Ouija, the younger boys set out with toilet paper for tricks, and the destination for the older high schoolers is the local lovers’ lane, a “make-out maze” in a dark, abandoned parking garage. While Rob’s illusions about the blonde are lost there, the other girls are enjoyably strong and spunky as they test boundaries at other parties. For every boy’s boast among the guys, the girls set the record straight to each other, and the sisters tease Scott’s twin fantasies before they quash them in order to encourage him to see them as individuals.The irony of spending time with these normal kids is that while it is refreshing to see teenagers played by a personable, age-appropriate and sweetly charming cast (almost all first-time actors), instead of the too-old, overly made up and styled smart asses of TV and Hollywood movies, they are a bit, well, bland, particularly the fairly indistinguishable secondary characters. Though no big climax leads each to mature a bit, Myth is more structured than mumblecore movies about an older demographic, and it’s naturalistic enough to seem like the rosy summer sequel to Nanette Burstein’s documentary American Teen (2008). Mitchell has said he was inspired by the French New Wave, so it’s noteworthy for a comparison on how a master uses a subtle moment of touching character revelation in two Eric Rohmer seasonal classics, The Green Ray (a.k.a. Summer) (1986) and its companion piece, Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987). Both are touring revival houses around the country this season in new 35mm prints for their 25th anniversary. Nora Lee Mandel
July 29, 2011