Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review - The Myth of the American Sleepover

A group of Michigan teens spend the last weekend of summer looking for love and adventure.

"The Myth of the American Sleepover" is a gentle, timeless look at the wonderment and exploration of our youth. It is a poignant coming of age tale told from four main characters perspectives as they move through the final weekend of summer. Writer and director David Robert Mitchell deliveres a beautiful film fixed on expressing true human emotions in a dream-like state. Emotions audiences far and wide will be able to relate with because of their universal connectivity.

The drama instantly sets itself apart from typical teen coming of age movies by slowing things way down and focusing on feeling out each of the characters and their emotions. "The Myth of the American Sleepover" comes across as a movie heavily inspired by films of the French New Wave, with long tracking shots of our characters. Scenes that allow the emotions to come out of the characters. Scenes that allow real moments to run their course instead of being edited and chopped to bits. Not only that but scenes that strip these characters down to real human beings and not just projections on a screen. It goes without saying that David Robert Mitchell did a fantastic job of creating and developing all of his characters to be tangible and ultimately feel authentic.

One aspect that tremendously helped make David Robert Mitchell's characters feel so authentic is a full cast of local unknown Michigan actors. 'Myth' is an advertisers nightmare because there is not one recognizable name in the movie, that all becomes unimportant once the audience is submersed into the situations with the cast. These actors come across as everyday folks and friends you would know and communicate with. Simply stated they are real human beings on top of being talented actors. Not that I'm trying to say well-known actors aren't human beings because obviously they are, but these unknown actors come across invisible in their roles helping to make this film so timeless.

A little bit more on the actors that are in 'Myth,' something tells me once people begin to see this movie and hear about it, we will begin to see more of these talented actors. Calire Sloma is charming as Maggie, a teen who is crushing on a local boy she's seen around all summer. Marlon Morton is equally appealing playing Rob, a role that homages Richard Dreyfuss's Curt in the 1973 George Lucas film "American Graffiti." Twin sisters Nikita and Jade Ramsey are inherently fetching as the Abbey twins. Two characters that seem unreachable for Scott comically portrayed by Brett Jacobsen. Jacobsen and the Ramsey sisters have one utterly genuine scene in a college bathroom together. A setup that most men would dream of that doesn't play out at all like you'd think and it is a perfect example of the heart on display in "The Myth of the American Sleepover."

"Myth of the American Sleepover" is a film I want my kids to experience as they get older. It is a coming of age story that covers important moments for us all in a considerate way instead of simply making fun of them. It is wholesome, while still covering content that isn't necessarily PG i.e. drinking, smoking and skinny dipping. David Robert Mitchell was wise to nurture and savor these moments versus playing off the clichés like so many other teen comedies and/or dramas do on a regular basis. This is not to say that "The Myth of the American Sleepover" does not have humor, because it does, just not solely for the sake of being funny. The comedic tones instead come from experiences and conversations that unfold over the course of the 93 minute movie.

Conversations is a good jumping point to David Robert Mitchell's script. 'Myth' is a day in the life structure following four main characters that each intertwine over the course of the last weekend in summer. On top of the four main characters, 'Myth' introduces a host of other teens that play tangled parts to the overall emotion and weight of the film. The situations and dialogue from start to finish are rich, simplistic and engaging. David Robert Mitchell comes across as a natural with conversational and engaging dialogue. He also has a healthy amount of dialogue that is crucial to adolescent teens and the emotions they constantly wrestle with. Our teenage years as well as our adult lives can be a barrel of emotions and weathering through them can be difficult but Mitchell's script pinpoints areas of concern and handles them with deep meaning.

There is a undeniable balance that David Robert Mitchell brings to the 'Myth of the American Sleepover' with his main characters on screen and in the script. The feminine voice is just as strong as the male voice allowing for the entire audience to gain the most from the experience, something I consider to be further proof that Mitchell is someone to keep an eye on. Too many films feel like only one side is really developed and that is not the case in 'Myth.' It was refreshing to see a film that worked its way through the characters carefully and with respect. There are lessons to be learned and moments to experience, all that hark back to either gender of sex in a moving way.

Twice now I've called David Robert Mitchell's debut film timeless and I stand by that. It is an honor to call a film timeless. Rarely does a film come along that is able to span across generations and not feel buckled down to one. It is a testament to how talented and uncompromising David Robert Mitchell is about telling the story he needed to tell. I'm sure he was told flat out that this script would not get made by major studios. Not because it covers material audiences wouldn't appreciate or understand, in fact it is the exact opposite, the entire film comes across as common memories we could all have. There are a number of developments and sequences throughout "The Myth of the American Sleepover" that feel like experiences we've had, wanted to have or heard about someone else having growing up. These moments called back to my own memories, placing me in a nostalgic comma for my teen years and the first time I fell for a girl. Back to why it wouldn't get made by a major studio, the pacing and development in 'Myth' is not used in a typical way general audiences are familiar with in theaters. This argument however is invalid considering audiences will recognize the flow and mood from either their day-to-day lives or from their own memories tying back to how much this film and its situations are authentic to us all. This is a film that has the ability to speak to any generation, as long as they'll listen.