I grew up in suburban Detroit, and there was an odd sort of stagnancy to my childhood. Growing up in a place where people bragged they hadn't been to downtown Detroit in decades made me feel the defining feature of the place was being proudly immune to social change.
Add in the matchless ennui of an adolescent summer--the sense of the clock of life slowing to a crawl as you wait and wait to enter adulthood--and you have the ingredients of The Myth of the American Sleepover. This debut film of writer-director David Robert Mitchell (who himself grew up in suburban Detroit and shot the film there in 2008) is a rambling sleepwalk through the last night of a teenage summer: a woozy mix of inexplicable urges and disappointingly bland events, a fruitless grasping for something just out of reach: meaning, connection, love.
Sleepover, written by Mitchell in 2002 by stitching together semiautobiographical sketches from prior years, was released in 2010 (mostly on the festival circuit), and makes its Ann Arbor theatrical debut at the Michigan October 8. It will strike most viewers as weirdly anachronistic: no characters have a cell phone or a computer, a boy has an actual world globe in his room, the girls at a sleepover play on a Ouija board, and one girl discovers another girl's been sleeping around by reading her diary in a dresser drawer--not on Facebook.
Mitchell has said he was attempting to make a film that telescoped fifty years of teenage suburban nights into one timeless quilt. It's a noble effort. Whether it strikes you as clumsy or profound may depend on your mood, because this is primarily a mood movie. Compared most often to Richard Linklater's cult classic Dazed and Confused, it harkens back stylistically more to John Cassavetes and Francois Truffaut. It's all adolescent stirrings unrealized--the kind of movie you haven't seen in a long time, where teenage boys tell girls they want to kiss them or hold
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