Man, they sold us a bill of goods as teenagers, huh? Why were so many of us so goddamn anxious for adulthood? Crushing debt, mortgage payments, eternal responsibility, work, routine, taxes, and making dinner every night? That’s what we were looking forward to? David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepver reminds us now of what we’re missing, of what we were anxious to escape, of what some of us wish we could get back, if only for a night.
You remember those nights, right? The sleepovers? The sneak-outs? The languid parties where anything could happen or nothing? It was all the same. Where were the parents? How did so many of us get away with it? I don’t know how many weekend nights I spent trolling the streets in the dead of night, vandalizing houses, damaging property, breaking into cars (once, even “borrowing” a car), skinny-dipping, knocking on girls’ windows, making out in a drainage ditch at 3:30 in the morning. It was a magical time. Brief windows of freedom, the thrill and excitement of danger. Those nights always had a way of working out, in the end. Something intoxicating always happened even when nothing happened. Those nights out were like the late night thoughts of an insomniac — always a good idea until the sun rises and we come to our senses. But that was the wonderful nature of our teenage years, wasn’t it? We never came to our senses. Did our parents know? How could they not? Was there some sort of parental understanding? A tacit agreement to let us experience life, as long as we didn’t let on to them what we were doing?
The Myth of the American Sleepover is a mood movie, a contemplation not on the loss of innocence, but on hanging on to it. Or in one case trying to recapture it. There are no adults in the movie — no reminders of what we’ve become or what we may soon be. There are also no named actors, so we can choose to believe that these aren’t characters. They’re just teenagers doing what teenagers do: Obsessing over girls (or boys), wandering aimlessly, experiencing brief flickers of lust of love of desire of heartbreak of doing the impossible. It follows several different teenagers on the Friday night before school is set to begin for the fall. There’s the girl who wants to experience a little more life before school begins. There’s a boy who wants to find the girl he spotted in a grocery store and fell in love with. There’s the new girl with braided hair attending a sleepover in the hopes of finding some new friends before school begins. And there’s the college kid, home for the weekend, trying to recapture a high-school crush before returning to the brink of adulthood. There are others, too, carpeing the night by its diem. Hoping to find someone to kiss. Or hold hands with. Or just be.
It’s an impossible movie to describe — not much happens on screen; it all happens in your mind. The way it recalls our own teenage years, the nostalgia fever it inspires. It captures so much by doing so little. It’s a remarkable, transportive film. It reaches inside your adulthood and it takes you back to another time for an hour and a half. It’s not some stupid American Pie fantasy or Superbad. There’s no quirky dialogue; no pie fucking; no race to lose one’s virginity. There are no embarrassing moments; no drunken hijinx; no contrived situations. It just is, but what it is is a lovely goddamn film.