The Myth of the American Sleepover will for many be one of the most nostalgic films of the year. Anyone who remembers being a teenager, and the growing pains that ensue when adulthood beckons will find something bittersweetly familiar about this teen drama. And while all the elements of this film may not fit together perfectly, it does evoke the pleasant memories of past teen movies without seeming like it’s copied from the same script.
This directorial debut from David Robert Mitchell is rather tame and tender, and is often treated like a dreamy bliss. It all connotes perfectly the mind of an adolescent during this time of life; nothing but a carefree existence without a care in the world or any consequences. You can see in the characters’ eyes that they enjoy this, but at the same time there is a yearning for something more. They’re starting to crave a life with a forward trajectory, that involves biting the bullet of adulthood and accepting responsibility for their own lives and move on. But before they do, they want to enjoy one last night of freedom.
The story takes place in a suburban area of Detroit, which is made to look so immaculate you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an episode of Last of the Summer Wine USA. It’s the last day of summer, and the various teenagers in the movie are getting ready to bid their families, friends, and Detroit goodbye as they head away to college.
The only problem with the ensemble cast is that none of them are particularly memorable. You are rooting for them to succeed in whatever endeavour they have planned for their final night of freedom, but you would be forgiven if some of the stories just mould together into one. The majority of the film is taken up by easy going conversations between the teenagers, and while that certainly isn’t a bad thing, it is a missed opportunity to give the character’s a little bit something extra to make them more memorable.
The cast for the most part is taken up by young, unknown amateur actors. It is a lot to expect such a young and inexperienced cast carry a film, but David Robert Mitchell’s script and direction make it a relative breeze. The script contains natural, easy-going dialogue, which allows the actors to settle into the more natural aspects of their roles. They’re teenagers playing teenagers, and it’s the nervous anxieties and raging hormones of the characters that make them all the more believable.
The Myth of the American Sleepover marks David Robert Mitchell’s directorial debut, but you wouldn’t think that is the case watching it. It is a very well made film that knows exactly what it wants to be. While it does often bare similarities to past teen dramas (and on some occasions, it directly refers to them), Mitchell manages to inject something into the heart of it that makes it feel much more fresh and engaging. It feels much more naturalistic than previous summer break movies, while at the same time keeping a dream-like quality.
The film benefits from its slow pace, as it allows the audience to ponder why it is these characters are in such a rush a grow up. The majority of us think of our teenage years as the best part of our lives, and yet as a teenager there is nothing you crave more than being an adult. Mitchell understands that being young is a magical time in a person’s life, full of new experiences and discoveries. But he also notes that a day comes when a teenager realises that he/she is ready to take the final step to becoming an adult.
The lack of interesting character’s is certainly a drawback, but David Robert Mitchell’s tale is more about what is happening to the teens, rather than the teens themselves. As they sit back and watch the season change around them, they themselves take the next step in the movement of their lives. It is bittersweet and nostalgic, and in the end that’s all that really matters. Mitchell’s debut film is all about the mood, and he nails it perfectly.
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