The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)

The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010) – I am young. I feel like I need to constantly remind myself of that these days. I sort of fucked up my educational career path so I go to school with a bunch of people in the 18-21-year-old range. At 27, I am among the oldest in my peer group. I’m not sure when it happens, this sort of disconnect between ages. I would have considered an 18-year-old to be the same generation as me, but the realization slowly dawns on me that that’s not exactly the case. As children we watched different shows. They’ve had the internet and cell phones pretty much their whole damn lives. I can remember adolescence pretty vividly. I can remember the things I thought and felt as a teenager, yet teenagers now seem like some other species. When did that happen? What is going on? This, by the way, has very little to do with The Myth of the American Sleepover but it’s the sort of frame of mind I’m in after watching it. Fuck it, this is a blog not some serious repository of respected film criticism. I can delve into introspection if I feel so inclined…

This miniature generation gap is chiefly on my mind, I suppose, because I don’t understand how a movie like this languishes in obscurity while whatever mindless pap Disney or whoever shits out dominates the adolescent box office (and by extension, the box office at large). Don’t teenagers remember how the fuck to feel? (Actually I did read somewhere that due to physiological factors empathy decreases during puberty so maybe not.) I guess it’s more marketing than anything else. I remember when teen films were unapolgetically rated R because, guess what? High school is rated R, at the very least for language. (The Myth of the American Sleepover, by the way, is unrated but would be rated R due to profanity and a brief shot of a topless woman in a slasher movie some characters are watching on TV.) I guess it’s hard for teenagers to get any kind of genuine look at their lives when the MPAA would slap such a film with a rating that theoretically prevents them from seeing it (just look at the struggles of the documentary Bully). In the meantime, I guess the usual bullshit will make money and films like this will be outright ignored…

So I’ve talked almost not at all about the movie itself and two paragraphs in seems like as good a time as any to fix that… The Myth of the American Sleepover is set in suburban Detroit at some unspecified time in the 80s. I’m assuming the 80s anyway since no one has cell phones and all the clothes and cars look dated… the soundtrack rather confusingly seems composed of contemporary indie music… It’s the end of summer and school is starting up again and, as the title might imply, a couple people have sleepovers. Yeah, the story is about guys who have crushes on girls and vice versa but it’s dealt with in a way that feels genuine. This movie doesn’t have any false notes, which I personally find staggering for a teen film made nowadays. Maybe audiences really crave artificiality and that’s why movies like this have trouble finding an audience…

The breakout actress in this film is Claire Sloma and I’m somewhat dismayed to see on her imdb page that she doesn’t have any credits besides this one. Nothing before or since. That’s a damn shame because otherwise I’d say she is an actress to watch. She plays a girl who ditches a sleepover to hang out with a guy at another party. Pretty much all the storylines are simple like that. There isn’t much in the way of cliché (teen movie clichés or indie movie clichés). Another story involves a kid named Rob (Marlon Morton, also no other imdb credits) trying to track down his dream girl (cannot find the actress’s name). Scott (Brett Jacobsen) is a college student who after a breakup tracks down the twins he had a crush on in high school (Nikita and Jade Ramsey). Claudia (Amanda Bauer) is a girl invited to a sleepover by her boyfriend’s ex (Shayla Curran). At four of the leads do very well to convey the crazy hormonal clusterfuck of emotions that define teenage existence. I can’t say plotwise this movie totally reflected MY high school experience (of course a Catholic all-guy school means my experience is somewhat atypical) but the emotions, how things FELT, that shit all rings true.

I don’t even remember how I heard about this movie. Probably on some film geek website I frequent. That’s kind of the beautiful thing about Netflix Instant, you can find a small movie like this. I’ve never heard of writer-director David Robert Mitchell but now I’m looking forward to his next film. The pacing almost reminds me of David Gordon Green’s earlier work (before he oddly transitioned to stoner comedies), only not as overtly poetic. The cast is a bunch of total unknowns who, blank imdb pages notwithstanding, I hope go on to have careers with even half as much honesty as is in this movie. I can daydream about a world where movies like this out-gross all the sexy-sparkling-vampire bullshit that captivates the teen market these days. More realistically I hope people see this movie on Netflix and decide to give it a shot. It doesn’t have the quick pace of a lot of modern movies and the plot is pretty sparse but neither of those things are really a negative in this flick. I suppose it’s not for everyone but I’d say it’s definitely worth checking out.

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