I had heard that The Myth of the American Sleepover was THE coming-of-age film, hearkening back to classic last day of school films from the 80s. That’s a pretty tall order to fill and while Myth has some beautiful words, it’s truly hard to believe them coming from teens who just try too hard to be hip and edgy. At times the film plays like an extended version of Degrassi while trying to come off like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant.
It’s the last day of school in a small town in Detroit. The group of various high schoolers all converge on various parties and sleepovers looking for love and friendship. This ranges from the recently dumped Scott (Brett Jacobsen) trying to find twins who showed an interest in him to freshman Claudia (Amanda Bauer) trying to come to terms with her older boyfriend’s past relationships.
The basic concept of this movie is what makes me not hate it as much, but again it’s pretty dialogue spoken by kids who I don’t think are capable of understanding what they’re talking about. There’s a moment where one of the boys whose name I didn’t remember is talking to Maggie (Claire Soma) about how being a teenager is supposed to be filled with adventures, making you forget the simple joys of playing board games with your friends and going to sleepovers. The numerous sleepovers that happen include moments of intimacy, infidelity, and constant backstabbing showcasing how the sleepover is perverted the older you get. All of that is nice, but the movie feels so melodramatic with everything from one of the guys questing to find a girl, going across state lines to do so, and a girl finding out the girl who invited her is a slut.
The numerous stories are just rife with melodrama and quirkiness that gets overbearing at times. Maggie is the rebel girl who drinks and has a lip ring yet is on the dance team and breaks into a spontaneous jazz dance at a party? Claudia starts the movie as a sweet girl and becomes a total scheming bitch by the end. The transitions in character never feel genuine and some are just downright creepy including Scott’s night drive to find twins who were interested in him and another boy looking for a girl he met at the grocery store (very Suzanne Somers in American Grafitti). I’ve seen many a teen movie and I just find it hard to believe these kids have these quirky moments, these petty moments….and yet still find the time to have a philosophical discussion. I was a highly advanced teenager (I was) but even I wasn’t this manic with my thoughts.
Much of the movie plays like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (a far darker and better movie than this in my opinion) so you get a lot of long, silent moments of soundtrack as the camera tracks alongside the characters or cars or something. Where in Van Sant’s film you were anticipating something horrible at any moment here it just seemed like the actors didn’t know what to discuss. It doesn’t help that the characters all vaguely look-alike, or maybe I just didn’t care, so I don’t remember anyone’s name.
I wanted this to be the best teen movie ever but instead I was left bored. Maybe next time!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.