Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Myth of the American Sleepover

“Sleepover” may very well describe audience reaction to this soporific, unoriginal teen study.

July 22, 2011

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1260808-American_Sleepover_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In The Myth of the American Sleepover, which is set in Detroit (although it really could take place anywhere), pajama parties comprise a major part of teenagers’ social life. Rookie director/writer David Robert Mitchell focuses on a group of adolescents who, in time-honored youth-movie fashion, spend one particularly long night hooking up, and not.
One can easily apprehend that Mitchell is positively aching to portray these kids with sensitivity and empathy, but, unfortunately, their nocturnal gambols merely encourage one big yawn. The characters lack any truly distinctive individuality to interest you, and their scattershot, mumbled conversations don’t give one much hope for the future of at least this particular generation in focus.

Mitchell’s writing is often too self-conscious, as when he has one character nostalgically recalling bygone childhood pursuits which have been replaced by high-school concerns (“I miss tag”). The lackadaisical pacing makes the film’s 93 minutes feel twice that length, and certain cinematic “homages,” like a Godardian spontaneous run through deserted school hallways by a trio of teens, or one girl suddenly breaking into Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face dance routine at a party, merely feel forced and unoriginal.

At a press screening, I asked Mitchell why he chose not to have any modern technology, like cell-phones or the Internet, in his movie, and he replied that he didn’t want to have anything which would “date” it in years to come. Well, okay, but the fact remains that without such appurtenances (which simply obsess modern teens), his film feels just that: dated, not to mention somewhat bewildering. When a bunch of boys have a stag party, they watch some soft-core porn video and masturbate to 1960ish-looking girlie magazines. One can see how Mitchell wanted to go for timelessness (and maybe some kind of quality of eternally lost innocence), but it would take a filmmaker with a far greater mastery of mise-en-scène to bring it off with the proper effect. And, I wondered, won’t the facial piercings on one female character’s face look antediluvian over time?

The performances of the largely first-time actors pretty much are what they are: The girls are wry and somewhat more deviously knowing than the boys, while the boys go through age-old dweebish uncertainty and sexual fumbling. If there’s a standout performance in this largely anonymous bunch, it’s that of Marlon Morton, who is fitfully amusing as that stock character who talks a big game but really possesses none. Paging Anthony Michael Hall—and while we’re at it, the ghost of John Hughes—wherever you are!



Film Review: The Myth of the American Sleepover

“Sleepover” may very well describe audience reaction to this soporific, unoriginal teen study.

July 22, 2011

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1260808-American_Sleepover_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In The Myth of the American Sleepover, which is set in Detroit (although it really could take place anywhere), pajama parties comprise a major part of teenagers’ social life. Rookie director/writer David Robert Mitchell focuses on a group of adolescents who, in time-honored youth-movie fashion, spend one particularly long night hooking up, and not.
One can easily apprehend that Mitchell is positively aching to portray these kids with sensitivity and empathy, but, unfortunately, their nocturnal gambols merely encourage one big yawn. The characters lack any truly distinctive individuality to interest you, and their scattershot, mumbled conversations don’t give one much hope for the future of at least this particular generation in focus.

Mitchell’s writing is often too self-conscious, as when he has one character nostalgically recalling bygone childhood pursuits which have been replaced by high-school concerns (“I miss tag”). The lackadaisical pacing makes the film’s 93 minutes feel twice that length, and certain cinematic “homages,” like a Godardian spontaneous run through deserted school hallways by a trio of teens, or one girl suddenly breaking into Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face dance routine at a party, merely feel forced and unoriginal.

At a press screening, I asked Mitchell why he chose not to have any modern technology, like cell-phones or the Internet, in his movie, and he replied that he didn’t want to have anything which would “date” it in years to come. Well, okay, but the fact remains that without such appurtenances (which simply obsess modern teens), his film feels just that: dated, not to mention somewhat bewildering. When a bunch of boys have a stag party, they watch some soft-core porn video and masturbate to 1960ish-looking girlie magazines. One can see how Mitchell wanted to go for timelessness (and maybe some kind of quality of eternally lost innocence), but it would take a filmmaker with a far greater mastery of mise-en-scène to bring it off with the proper effect. And, I wondered, won’t the facial piercings on one female character’s face look antediluvian over time?

The performances of the largely first-time actors pretty much are what they are: The girls are wry and somewhat more deviously knowing than the boys, while the boys go through age-old dweebish uncertainty and sexual fumbling. If there’s a standout performance in this largely anonymous bunch, it’s that of Marlon Morton, who is fitfully amusing as that stock character who talks a big game but really possesses none. Paging Anthony Michael Hall—and while we’re at it, the ghost of John Hughes—wherever you are!
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Calvary
Film Review: Calvary

An invidious, enervating piece of work blessedly relieved by Brendan Gleeson’s empathetic portrayal of a worldly priest confronting the sins of the world. More »

Rich Hill
Film Review: Rich Hill

This study of teens trying to make it in a very depressed and depressing heartland would have benefited from more hard info and less pictorial meandering. More »

Child of God
Film Review: Child of God

Depravity abounds in this James Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which despite a committed performance by Scott Haze proves a one-note endurance test. More »

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
Film Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

A return to the stripped–down ferocity of Eli Roth's no-frills 2002 shocker, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (which the title suggests is a prequel, though it doesn't really feel like one) lacks originality but delivers the body-horror goods far better than genre minimalist Ti West's Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break (2009), a broadly campy spin on ’70s high-school horror clichés. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here