The Myth of the American Sleepover: Feeling That Last Night of Summer
An earnest, ethereal riff on the one-night-in-a-high-school-caste-system-interwoven narrative ensemble piece, writer-director David Robert Mitchell's feature debut spans the last night of summer in a cloistered Michigan suburb. High-schoolers Maggie (Claire Sloma, a pierced punkette) and Beth (Annette DeNoyer, perfectly just-pubescent nerdy) bike between a tame sleepover and a cool-kid kegger; new girl Claudia (Amanda Bauer) swiftly finds herself tangoing with the local mean girls; incoming freshman Rob (Marlon Morton) quasi-stalks a blond mystery girl; and Scott (Brett Jacobsen), home from college, pursues a pair of just-graduated twins (Jade and Nikita Ramsey). When it comes to the atmospherics of that fertile transition point between school years, this pre-cell-phone period piece — hazily innocent even as it's sketching out the odder, darker corners of adolescent desire — gets a lot right. The constant presence of music — think Dazed and Confused, with the Magnetic Fields swapped in for Foghat — nails both the teenage fantasy of living life to a personal soundtrack, and a high-schooler's heightened hunger to experience everything all at once. An editor by trade, Mitchell shows more talent for defining situation and feeling via cross-cut gazes than he does through dialogue, which here is often conspicuously precise. But of the uneven young nonactor performers, Sloma is always interesting to watch: She's even almost credible when tasked with delivering the film's thesis in the form of a lesson learned.
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