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The Myth of the American Sleepover | Review

Non-Pillow Talk: Mitchell’s Hits a Triple in Film of Getting to First Base

When you’re fifteen there are a few things that hold true for almost everybody. You feel generally under-appreciated. Small things feel massive, catastrophic. And you’re absolutely starving. Starving for attention, for validation, for sex, for love. In David Robert Mitchell’s directorial debut The Myth of the American Sleepover, the dozen or so characters (who collectively won Best Ensemble Cast at SXSW in 2010) are hungry to share themselves with others, eager to mature with each step toward adulthood.

There are four principal characters amidst the group, each with their own mission that propels the story through the night, the last night of the summer. Maggie (Claire Sloma), with face piercing and short haircut, is restless, eyeing each boy that enters her field of view. Dragging sidekick Beth (Annette DeNoyer) with her, Maggie goes from party to party, from front yards to backyards in search of a boy though not knowing what she would do if she gets one. After spotting a beautiful girl in the supermarket, Rob (Marlon Morton) spends the remainder of the film looking for her, though in the process sees other girls, girls who might understand him better than any mysterious fantasy. Amanda Bauer plays Claudia, a freshman that is quiet yet assured, who is invited to a sleepover made up of all the ingredients to create a disaster: alcohol, deceit, scorn, revenge. And wallowing in post breakup self-pity, college junior Scott (Brett Jacobsen) returns home and trying to distract himself chases after twins (Jade and Nikita Ramsey) he longingly remembers from years ago.

Though not explicitly stated, Myth takes place in Detroit or thereabouts, a Detroit not battered by the recession but stuck in a late 70s haze. The time and place is left purposefully murky and the film does not benefit from it. If the story does take place in the present, as we are led to believe because not told otherwise, then why does not one teenager have a cell phone? Why are all the cars non-descript twenty-year-old GMs? The tendency toward a timeless, nameless American town is confusing, does not add to its mythic/mystic quality but rather obscures it.

Still, the lessons the kids learn are hard won, and deserved. When Rob has just started his foray into the night, he can’t help ogling his friend’s older sister Julie (Amy Seimetz). While his friends sheepishly make fun of a porno they are watching at their sleepover, Rob is more concerned with Julie’s smile, her legs, the way she tilts her head when she’s on the phone. When caught staring, Rob doesn’t look away but instead looks back with a kind of naïve confidence. Soon after, his curiosity brings him into the bathroom where Seimetz is soaking in the tub. Here, Seimetz knows what is going to happen, remembers what fifteen-year-old boys were like, and so when she invites him to make a move, knows what the outcome will be. Rob sees her, contemplates, and realizes he is unable to do what he has fantasized about so many times.

The Myth of the American Sleepover is full of these moments. Moments that describe the high stakes awkwardness of teenage romance. Rob eventually finds the supermarket girl, Scott eventually finds the twins, Maggie chooses a boy and Claudia chooses herself. Once the boys do find the girls, it’s never what they imagined it would be. And when the girls finally choose their boys, they can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Mitchell did not set out to reinvent, or even reinvigorate the genre. He set out to make a light, warm summer movie about teenagers, and in that he was successful.

Rating 3 stars

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Jesse Klein (MFA in Film and Video Production from The University of Texas at Austin) is a Montreal-born filmmaker and writer. His first feature film, Shadowboxing, (RVCQ '10, Lone Star Film Festival '10) . As well as contributing to IONCINEMA, he is the senior contributor to This Recording and writes for ION Magazine and Hammer to Nail. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (All About My Mother), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardenne Bros. (Rosetta), Haneke (The White Ribbon), Hsiao-Hsien (Flowers of Shanghai), Kar-wai (In The Mood For Love), Kiarostami (Close-Up), Lynch (Blue Velvet), Tarantino (Jackie Brown), Van Sant (To Die For), von Trier (Breaking The Waves)

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