The Myth of the American Sleepover

| February 13, 2012

I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about The Myth of the American Sleepover through the internet grapevine. A high school coming-of-age film much in the style of Dazed and Confused… a style that has been time and time again. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive after reading the synopsis, but thought I’d give it a try.
Set over one evening in an ambiguous Detroit suburb, a group ranging from incoming high school freshman to college, experience the highs and lows of their adolescence. Filled with excitement and anxiety, our characters introduction to first relationships and peer pressure seem as awkward on screen as in real life. Director/writer’s David Robert Mitchell’s choice of debut and upcoming actors achieves this with real style. The characters are completely content in their own uncomfortable roles and rarely contrived.
While the characters are fueled by the promises of the sleepover’s “myth”, their surrounded by a calm Midwestern atmosphere. The tension and humor come off in such a subdued manner, you’re not sure how to feel. While this obviously wouldn’t have worked in Harmony Korinne’s New York City based Kids-a movie I couldn’t help but think of in this genre- the soft spoken characters of Detriot’s suburbia come across very natural.
To go along with the suburban surroundings, American Sleepover captures great locations. The use of pool houses, parties without parents, and high school running tracks reminded me of the best from John Hughes movies. David Robert Mitchell and cinematographer James Laxton even grasp the delicate landscape which seems to be so important throughout the film.
Obviously with such a large ensemble of characters(17 in all), there are some segments that are better than others. But I fail to find one I was bored with. Even the tiresome third act seems appropriate with the inherent nature of the evening. Though Mary Wardell’s debut performance as Jen is worth mentioning. Her quality to steal each scene helps the film in it’s more dire moments. We can only hope to see more of her.
It goes without saying that films like American Sleepover require a great soundtrack-thankfully the film provides well. Filled with the big indie acts of the day and smooth jazz, the film knows when to use it’s soundtrack. During a late night talent show at an upperclassman’s house(the prize being a bottle of vodka), American Sleepover even sneaks in a dance number. Performed by another talend newcomer, Claire Soma, the scene seem completely appropriate.
Winning at South by Southwest in 2010, the film went on to grab a nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2011. Being his feature film debut, David Robert Mitchell has his occasional directing hiccup. Though also working as a producer, editor, and production manager, you can tell his knowledge of the film set and upcoming form. We can see this by the elaborate use of lighting techniques and patience that Mitchell knows movie making requires.
If there’s anything American Sleepover can promise, it’s entertainment. The light-hearted allure of the film brings about a nostalgic feeling of having just left a time capsule. While I’m not sure if the film is demystifying or enforcing the American Sleepover, I was so humored by the story I could careless.

About the Author:

Daniel currently resides in New York City working as a freelance writer and director. He is a graduate of the Film and Video department of Columbia College, specializing in Italian Neo-realism and French & British New Wave cinema.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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