Tuesday, 5 July 2011

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Exploring the shenanigans that a suburb full of teenagers can get up to when they collect at several separate sleepovers, The Myth of the American Sleepover is a depressing insight into American youth and suburban culture.

A high school aged girl and her friend check out a cute lifeguard at the local swimming pool, and then steal someone else's beers. A boy out shopping with his mother falls in lust with a pretty young girl shopping with her mother. A college student comes home to mope after having his heart broken.The Myth of the American Sleepover A girl new to the area befriends another with a less than perfect reputation. They all drink and behave badly. Then it's the next day.

Ok, sure, there are moments in which some of the kids make choices that most of their audience will be comfortable with, but for much of this film we follow a group of children as they drink and snog their way through a long Summer night. That Maggie (Claire Sloma) is still alive given the amount of alcohol she ingests in such a short time is a miracle, and suggesting that she would be capable of riding a pushbike is close to absurd.

This is not to suggest that writer/director David Robert Mitchell hasn't created a film that displays significant insight into suburban teenage malaise. The Myth of the American Sleepover is a scary, depressing experience, as it has an air of authenticity that makes the decisions (good and bad) of these young people all the more important. The plight of the best friend who is falling behind their peer in emotional maturity and sexual adventurousness is examined in two cases, and both are easily recognisable.

The performances of the young cast are very natural, and Sloma is perhaps the standout: she is given the opening and closing sequences as well as at least her share of the interwoven narrative, but the film couldn't work without her confident portrayal of a young woman on the verge of maturity. The unaffected performances are matched by the washed out appearance of the film, allowing it to achieve a pseudo-documentary feel that Mitchell must surely have been aiming for. Issues with sound levelling affected the film at several points, with some dialogue inaudible against the soundtrack. It is not inconceivable that this was the fault not of the filmmaker but rather the cinema, given the problems that have plagued my experience of MIFF so far this year.

That several of his characters eventually do make the 'right' decisions is heartening, although this may be disappointing for those expecting this film to lay bare the consequences of misguided teenage hubris, and it probably weakens the film overall. Nonetheless, The Myth of the American Sleepover is a solid and more realistic take on the rites of passage of American teens than we are usually offered.

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