Director David Robert Mitchell made his debut feature with a slate of names to its credit that you ought to take note of, because you’ll be hearing more from them all. His The Myth of the American Sleepover has toured through more festivals than you can shake a broomstick at, snagging a spot at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival – an honor so grand that a director plucked from middle class middle America might exclaim right then and there, “Hell, I’ve seen it all” and go into early retirement. Of course, Mitchell, originally from Michigan, merely finished his MFA in filmmaking at Florida State in the early aughts – where the crux of this film’s major players originally crossed paths – so there are plenty of pictures to spool out before he takes up weekday rounds of pinochle.  

His collaborators include a number of Florida State alums, including editor Julio Perez IV, producers Adele Romanski, Justin Barber and Cherie Saulter, and most notably, James Laxton, Myth’s cinematographer. Laxton (Medicine for Melancholy) takes the mundane scenery of a slow-poking Midwest suburb and injects it with a saturated rosy glow. Using the Red One camera, Laxton shoots the night-filled ambiance with fine-grained clarity. Have you noticed how scenes shot at night typically have an artificial blue hue? Laxton’s nighttime has a similar twinkle to the one you might see first hand; never venturing into the flat metallic spectrum of standard digital quality, his color of night is simply dewy with depth and life.

The intersecting lives of Myth take place on the last night of summer for a motley crew of teens who are eager to grow up, yet are still content to play adolescents for a while, hence the sleepover. While the premise is one nearly anyone can relate to, the intricacies of these teenagers’ lives is a little tougher to accept. Their penchant for slow, meditative phrasing, for one, is an awfully precocious way to say “OMG.” If you’ve heard a teenager speak out loud for longer than a 15 seconds recently, you know that when you hear one character in the film – who can’t be more than 16 or 17 years old –sentimentally reflect on the blithe salad days of a slumber party (“I guess it’s the kind of thing you miss when you’re too old to do it anymore”), your response will be as comprehensive as a real-life teen’s: c’mon.

Nevertheless, the fresh energy in the editing of Laxton’s aforementioned images is redeeming, as are its lineup of performances, many of which are given by first-time actors. Myth’s best performance though comes from one with only a short scene: Amy Seimetz. Her magnetic quality extends to her features and tone, both strangely beautiful. There is conviction in her presence, in much the same way as indie darling-turned-Hollywood-starlet Greta Gerwig’s (Greenberg), and as one of the oldest characters (She plays an older sister.) in the film she lends credibility to Myth’s world that is otherwise completely absent of adult authority. Where are Claudia’s (Amanda Bauer) boyfriend’s parents in the morning after that illicit sleepover? Maybe they were out at one of the more than 20 festival screenings of The Myth of the American Sleepover. Or maybe that was a bad pun.

Grade: C+

The Myth of the American Sleepover releases in select theaters July 29.