Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
July 22nd, 2011

Editor's note: this review was originally published on March 16, 2010 as a SXSW Film Festival review.

Writer: David Robert Mitchell
David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Amanda Bauer, Brett Jacobsen, Claire Sloma, Nikita Ramsey, Jade Ramsey

David Robert Mitchell's feature debut, THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, has one of those teen Americana slice-of-life plotlines that should guarantee it at least captures sentiment from those young and wishing to be young. An assorted group of high schoolers have one last summer night free of the trappings of school to live it up. But instead of scripting the action around one of those "epic parties" that gathers all sorts of people who would never interact under any other circumstances, mashes them together like so much of a high school frappe, and waits out the results, MYTH goes for something much more realistic. A sleepover. Well, three of them, to be precise.

The large cast Mitchell has assembled for MYTH is chockful of relative newcomers, but he sagely singles out certain members of the players to focus on and to receive the bulk of the film's attention. Maggie (Claire Sloma) has a crush on the dude at the pool, but also the cocky boy who uses his cigarettes almost exclusively as accessories. She and her best friend navigate their quiet suburban streets through the afternoon and night, hitting a real party, a lake house, and the sleepover they are actually supposed to be attending. During the course of the night, who likes who and what is going to happen becomes increasingly nebulous, and everything feels like the desperate mess that only teenage hormones can properly fuel.

Claudia (Amanda Bauer) is the new chick in town, and she's been invited to the "cool girl" sleepover at the Queen Bee's house. And while that sleepover may have the filmic equivalent of Boone's Farm flavored wine to recommend its cool factor, ol' QB might just have a trick or two up her sleeve (hint: Claudia has a hot, older boyfriend). But Claudia is much more wily than anyone is giving her credit for, and it's Bauer's performance as the simultaneously gawky and confident Claudia that formed my favorite piece of the film.

And then there's the dudes. Rob (Marlon Morton) is horny for just about any girl, but especially for that blond he just spotted at the grocery store this morning. He spends his night searching for blondie, accompanied by his best friend, who probably has a secret or two that are only very obtusely hinted at. As if Rob's quest for a little skin isn't sad enough, meet Scott (Brett Jacobsen). A former Big Man on Campus back in town for the summer, he's reeling from a college heartbreak and refusing to go back to school. Scott's desire to still feel cool and wanted leads him down some interesting paths - such as searching out a set of twins who may have liked him. At one time. Three years ago.

But while these characters are all well-formed and interesting enough to watch, MYTH stalls out. The rest of the large cast overwhelms scenes and plots, and it becomes tedious and numbing to attempt to remember who is who, who knows who, who wants who, who has been where. Tightened focus on the stronger stories and characters (like Claudia or Scott) would have improved the film dramatically. And while the langorous pace is at first welcome, and reminiscent of the long summer night our kids embark on, it wears, and eventually feels recycled. However, for a first feature, Mitchell does establish his firm understanding of what it's like to be young, dumb, and stung.

Rating: 6/10

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