Teenagers often develop a reputation of being lazy during their summer vacations, particularly when they’re with their friends. But the young cast of the new Sundance Selects comedy-drama The Myth of the American Sleepover, which features many high school and college teenagers in their feature-film debut, is definitely an exception. Taking about five weeks out of their summer to film the movie, which opens at New York City’s Angelika Film Center on July 22, 2011, the cast perfectly proved how dedicated teens can be when they put their minds to something.
The Myth of the American Sleepover follows four carefree teenagers, including Rob Salvati (played by Marlon Morton), Claudia (portrayed by Amanda Bauer), Maggie (played by Claire Sloma) and Scott Holland (portrayed by Brett Jacobsen), as they explore their suburban Michigan town during their last weekend of summer. Determined to find love and adventure before the new school year begins, the four teens spend the night with their friends and come to realize that these moments will later resonate as the best in their lives.
The film, which first-time director David Robert Mitchell began writing as he was finishing his MFA in Motion Picture, Television & Recording Arts at Florida State University in 2002, is light on true internal and external conflict. Mitchell seemed unconcerned with presenting difficult obstacles for the care-free characters to overcome; he has said that while plot is important, what makes movies exciting is the way they allow directors to examine and intensify the feelings everyone experiences in their lives.
But the lack of plot truly propelled the unique personalities of the four characters, allowing the audience to truly connect with them. With Rob, viewers will remember their attraction to fellow classmates as they’re set to enter high school, and their uneasiness as they contemplate how to approach them. The audience will effortlessly relate to Claudia, the new girl who questions why everyone is compelled to be friends with the conceited popular girl. Maggie represents every teen’s determination to rebel and do whatever they want to do, no matter what other people will think of them. Scott embodies everyone’s desire to look back on their life and question if the decisions they made were the right ones.
Mitchell rightfully described the film as having a bit of naturalism. The movie contains elements that characterizes everyone’s youth, including the need to fit in, while at the same time being remembered for their own personality. Mitchell also perfectly summed up everyone’s take on their teen years; he said the movie’s “almost a little bit like a dream or a memory, in some way. That’s sort of where the myth comes into play. Some of the things we sort of long for, we remember, or what we want to remember.”
The director took an enormous risk when he decided not to precisely date the film and include the most current technology. Mitchell also said that he didn’t want to set The Myth of the American Teenager in any particular year, so that “people of different ages who grew up in different decades can see a little bit of themselves in it.” But the risk paid off, as viewers of all ages will surely be reminiscing of their own youth while watching the film. The movie succeeds in its goal of allowing the audience to long for their teen years, a time when they were more care-free and their only concern was having fun with friends.
While The Myth of the American Sleepover lacks a distinct plotline and any true conflicts, the movie perfectly sums up every teenager’s relaxed lifestyle. Mitchell, as a first-time filmmaker, succeeded in his goal of immersing the audience into the characters’ feelings and desires. The film is perfect for anyone who wants to remember what it’s like to be a care-free teenager.