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SLEEPOVER(director/writer: John F. Sullivan; cinematographer: Joaquin Baca-Asay; editor: Jim McNally; music: Elliott Goldkind; cast: Michael Albanese (Mark), Karl Giant (Sean Murphy), Shannon Berry (Anne), Heather Casey (Brooke), Ken Miles (Ken), Megan Shand (Megan), Richard Stein (Police Officer); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jim McNally; Lifesize Entertainment; 1995)
“Detached indie clichéd life-lesson teen flick.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director John Sullivan (“The Pizza Guys”), a graduate of the NYU film school, in his film debut, ably directs this tense but detached indie clichéd life-lesson teen flick. It’s a coming-of-age film that climaxes with a traffic fatality the filmmaker recalls he actually experienced. It’s set on the last summer of the weekend in the ‘burbs of Connecticut, just outside of Norwalk. Six teens who have nothing to do but flirt with each other hook up and this leads the three boys to lie to their parents by saying they’re sleeping over a friend’s house and instead steal a car to go for a joy ride and then take a night ride with the girls. The boys, the timid nice guy Sean Murphy (Karl Giant) and the one black member recently moved here from the ghetto, Ken (Ken Miles), are led by the car thief controlling and bullying Mark (Michael Albanese); the girls are led by the spoiled party girl Brooke (Heather Casey), in tow is her callow younger 14-year-old sister Anne (Shannon Berry), and the most quiet and serious one is Megan (Megan Shand). After vandalizing a Dairy Queen, the aggressive Mark drives the teens to a makeout spot at the quarry. Here Mark acts crass with Brooke, while the sensitive Sean and Megan hit it off, and Ken talks Anne into having her first kiss with a black guy. The pace and the storytelling make it seem more like a French film than an American teen film.

As the evening wears on, Mark’s tough guy act grows stale and he starts to lose his temper and all the other teens start to tire of the control freak and bicker with him, which makes him get further out of control. At one point, Mark punches out his best friend Sean for not going along with him in his spat with the girls, calls Ken a nigger when he thinks he’s out of earshot and turns off Brooke with his aggressive behavior. Unable to control his bad impulses, Mark gets into a fatal car chase with a police car. The problem with all the teens is that their parents are inattentive and most come from broken homes, and all are in need of a wise father figure. Doesn’t sound fresh, but the film plays out better than all the clichés it lays on us.

The unpretentious film is more grim than the usual teen flick. But it surprises with a meaningful soundtrack that accurately reflects the time period for this group with music from Helmet, Don Caballero and the late Jeff Buckley, who contributes three original songs: “Searching,” “Tongue” and “Yes.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”