out of Five
Running time: 96
Beautifully shot, nostalgia-fuelled teen drama that plays out in dreamlike fashion and is content to unfold at its own unhurried pace, thanks to atmospheric direction, a sharply observed script and strong performances from a likeable cast.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, The Myth of the American Sleepover is set in the not too distant past (judging by the fact that nobody has a mobile phone) and focuses on four separate teenagers looking for romantic connections on the last night of summer in suburban Detroit, the night before a big parade in town.
The four teens include: parade participant Maggie (Claire Sloma), who sneaks out of a planned sleepover with the rest of her parade group in order to look for a boy (Douglas Diedrich) she's been eyeing up at the local pool; Rob (Marlon Morton), who ditches an all-boy sleepover of his own in order to search the town for a hot blonde he spotted at the supermarket; new girl in town Claudia (Amanda Bauer), who attends yet another sleepover of a popular girl (Shayla Curran) she doesn't like very much and inadvertently discovers something about her older boyfriend; and university student Scott (Brett Jacobsen) who's back in town after a painful break-up and decides to look for the identical twins (Nikita Ramsey and Jade Ramsey) he's convinced used to have a crush on him.
The four young leads deliver extremely likeable, naturalistic performances, sparking engaging chemistry with their various supporting co-stars; for example, Sloma and Morton's characters each have a nerdy best friend, while Scott's sister Beth (Annette DeNoyer) provides a useful crossover character for three of the story strands.
Mitchell's script steers refreshingly clear of the expected teen movie clichés, allowing small but nonetheless important moments to stand in for the usual big dramatic events and strongly conveying the intensity and rush of a first kiss, no matter how chaste that kiss might be.
Similarly, the direction is impressively atmospheric, creating an almost dreamlike, elegiac atmosphere (there are no parents on screen at any point, for example) that perfectly suits the leisurely, unhurried pacing of the film.
On top of that, Mitchell orchestrates some wonderful scenes (pretty much every exchange between Scott and the twins is a delight) and delivers some unexpectedly magical moments, such as Maggie performing her almost Busby Berkeley-esque parade routine for a group of partying teenagers by a lake. In addition, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer James Laxton and there's a superb score by Kyle Newmaster.
The Myth of the American Sleepover is a refreshing take on the usual teen movie fare that marks writer/director Mitchell out as a future talent to watch. Recommended.
Myth of the American Sleepover (tbc)