Taking place over the course of one single lively summer evening, David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010) may appear to be shamelessly regurgitating the same hackneyed youthful nostalgia of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993). Yet behind its carefree rumination on the innocent hedonism of youth lies a commendably honest depiction of the paradoxical nature of adolescence wistfulness.
Depicting the final week-night before the end of the summer holidays, Mitchell’s film focuses on several hormonal teenagers struggling to profit from the remaining hours of their summer break – each desperate to achieve something life-changing before dawn arrives with the unwelcome promise of a new school year. Riddled with a mix of amorous desires, sexual curiosity and naivety, each of these capricious and gregarious teens are searching for an adventure to ignite the dwindling fire of their so far mundane vacation.
The Myth of the American Sleepover feels like being confined within the second act of a conventional ‘coming-of-age’ tale, less concerned with the learning curve of these pre-college years, with more focus upon the brief moments in life – which, in those sexually definitive years, feel so monumental and significant. Mitchell perfectly captures the narrow focus and insecurities of his character’s allowing us to once again attempt to read into the ambiguous gesture of a potential sweetheart or the meaning behind a seemingly offhand remark.
The film’s exact spacial and geographical setting is never revealed (although the nineties feels like a suitable guess) and the cast are far from the prim-and-polished teens we’re used to seeing in such films. There’s also a welcome lack of the egocentric and precocious narrative that makes such films appear like little more than a contrived attempt to tap into the youth market. However, what the script lacks in eloquence it more than makes up for with a stark understanding of the awkwardness of teenage interactions, presenting a refreshingly natural, albeit mildly exaggerated, portrait of the difficult transition to adulthood.
A beautifully naturalistic portrayal of the harsh truth of adolescence filmed through the haze of a romanticised illusory scenario, with The Myth of the American Sleepover, Mitchell has successfully created an admirable indie effort which truly presents the paradox of youth – sexual awakening coupled with crippling insecurity.