“The Myth of The American Sleepover” seems so genuine, so honest, so middle-America, there literally were parts that I thought had to be filmed in my neighborhood, at my high school. (Instead, it’s suburban Detroit.) The actors portraying the kids do so well because they’re kids themselves, precious few with any acting credits before or since.
In quite an accomplished debut that appears effortless, writer/director David Robert Mitchell follows a select handful of students yearning to squeeze the most out of one night toward the end of summer. One heartbroken guy pines obsessively over a girl he spotted in a supermarket; another goes to great length to locate twins he’s told wanted to sleep with him.
A girl new to town is invited to a large slumber party held by someone she’s just met, while another who wishes she’d had more fun during the season seeks adventure with a member of the opposite sex, if only they’d pay attention to her.
A rarity these days, “Sleepover” treats its subjects with respect, even if the story doesn’t always find them at their best — after all, teens make mistakes (perhaps more than most), but here, the situations are organic and have consequences, if not quite closure, fittingly enough. The choices they make have impact that either could dissipate before the next sundown or take years to work through — in other words, just like life.
With only one or two scenes that poke at the bubble of believability (one involving “A Horrible Way to Die” victim Amy Seimetz soaking in a tub), Mitchell effectively captures what it feels like to be invulnerable and insecure at the same time, to be in love with the idea of being in love, to realize with fear that your relative freedom is on the precipice of having its days numbered.
As one girl gazes out the car window, Mitchell’s camera catches her face in the side mirror, framed above the phrase “may be closer than they appear.” I can’t but help but think it was intentional, and that he meant adulthood.
At times reminiscent of “The Big Chill,” “Dazed and Confused” and the recent, inferior “Skateland,” Mitchell’s movie only grows weary toward its tail end. Perhaps this, too, was intentional, mirroring the burnout of its subjects who have stayed up all night.
Other than that, I adore this one. —Rod Lott