The moment I knew I was in love with Myth of the American Sleepover was a scene in which a recently dumped college senior (Scott, played by Brett Jacobsen) confesses feelings for a pair of twins he went to high school with. The twins (Nikita and Jade Ramsey) humor him with an ultimatum that I won't give away here, but there are so many little things going on in the scene that feel complicated, funny, and true. Scott's confession doesn't lack honesty, but it's motivated by the specific pains of being on the rebound -- the immediate need to feel a personal, intimate connection to someone else, no matter how ill-advised. His desire to be with both of the girls as a single unit is a Playboy magazine fantasy, and when the girls call him out on it, he faces the situation as honestly as he possibly can. Everyone has looked back at their past, not just at The One Who Got Away, something dozens of comedies and romantic dramas have covered, but at the one that Might've Been.
With the Might've Beens, we attach romantic daydreams to the people who pass in and out of our lives. Their fleeting nature doesn't make those minor attractions untrue, and they're rarely explored on film because of how difficult they are to express. They're something more than sexual desire, but something less than an honest-to-goodness crush. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell absolutely nails it here, just one true moment in a film filled with true moments. Myth of the American Sleepover may be cut from the same ensemble youth culture cloth as American Graffitti and Dazed and Confused, but there's more of a romantic thread that runs through this film than those.
Scott is the oldest character in Myth, a film that devotes most of its time to a group of fresh-faced Michigan teens on the last weekend of a long Summer. Rob (Marlon Morton) is a good kid, fighting his biological compulsion to sexualize everything, in an all-night search for the girl he saw in passing at a supermarket (another Might've Been, and the film's most specific American Graffitti reference). Maggie (Claire Sloma) and Beth (Annette DeNoyer) are two friends leaving junior high together and testing the waters of a high school world of boys and booze. New-girl-in-town Claudia (Amanda Bauer) finds herself at a sleepover hosted by a girl she barely knows, who knows Claudia's boyfriend a little too well.
Mitchell balances all of the stories well, never getting too gimmicky by forcing the situations to overlap, and surprisingly, avoiding the life-changing calamty I've become accustomed to in indie coming-of-age dramas. No one was mauled to death by a tiger, or had their head crack open on the side of a swimming pool, or had to save someone from an attempted rape. That's refreshing. I think the go-to for a lot of films about teens is to introduce some major bit of darkness into the final act, as an easy way to drive home some point about innocence lost. Mitchell's characters hold on to their innocence, some of them deliberately, actively. It's something we do, as people, and it informs our morality and the relationships we have with others. Myth of the American Sleepover understands this and presents it in a way that is both intimate and joyous.
The limitations of a low budget and the relative inexperience.of the cast and crew don't mean much when they've crafted something this emotionally authentic. I admit that on the surface Myth may even seem like nothing special -- just another film about teens hanging out all night. It's the below-the-surface details, the warm-hug tone and the subtle characterizations that Myth gets right, elevating it into something that lingers, without a trace of cynicism or angst.