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Netflix fix: Reflecting on love, growing up in 'The Myth of the American Sleepover'

By Luis Rendon
May 15, 2013 at 12:15 a.m.

Yearning for connections, even in the supermarket, is a focal point in  "The Myth of the American Sleepover."

As a youngster, I was an avid hide and seek player - kind of a go-to distraction from otherwise boring family gatherings or long days with the other neighborhood kids, I'd revel in how to be quiet and make myself small and invisible to seekers.

As a young adult in high school, when such activities are played with less frequency, my friends and I decided to give the game a teenage twist: hide and seek in the dark.

The dark gave it a more secretive and magical touch. The mystery of the night could lead to whispers of feelings, tentative hand-holding and even a stolen kiss. The rush of spilling your guts, making your move before being found made the experience that much more heightened.

Everyone always wanted to play, even the most grown up and mature kids. Not because we missed the game of our childhood, but because it gave us a chance, an excuse really, to hold hands, kiss and other naughty things - to be a little bit like an adult.

Those innocent first steps into the emotional cluster of adulthood are the lifeblood of the dreamy and sweet "The Myth of the American Sleepover."

The tiny 2010 film follows a series of teenagers on one of their last nights of summer. All in various states of high school - just entering, drowning in it or barely removed - our characters are all ripe with emotional turmoil. Four stories crisscross and intersect, bound together by the night, sleepovers and the young people on a search for something.

The first sleepover is a mostly all-girls affair with Jen, a Queen B of sorts, at the helm. Even this queen is a confused teenager, though; making jokes about using a mirror she received as a birthday present to do marijuana. "You use mirrors to snort cocaine, not pot, Jen," says an unimpressed frenemy.

Over at a more tame, all-girl sleepover is Maggie and Beth, a kind of odd duo of dance-lesson-taking free spirits. Maggie, a pixie-haired blonde with lip rings who had hoped the summer before entering high school would have brought more excitement to her life, gets Beth to ditch the sleepover for a more thrilling night of partying with high school boys.

A boys-only sleepover quickly turns into a toilet-papering, egg-throwing neighborhood conquest while Rob, a sweet proto-teen-dude attempts to track down a crush whom he saw at the grocery store earlier in the day.

The oldest of our group is Scott, a would-be college kid who tracks down a pair of twins at a college freshman sleepover at the University of Michigan in the hopes of clearing up his stunted emotional growth.

The movie stumbles along in a way that only high school dramas could. Tentative touches, hidden meanings and mixed messages abound, blending sweet nostalgia and cautious danger.

The night these kids have is probably a parent's worse nightmare - anything could go wrong at any minute - but nothing ever does. It's just another night of emotional exploration, of finding that whatever it is to make you grow.

"They trick you into giving up your childhood with all these promises of adventure," says a shaggy-haired junior, perhaps disillusioned by his own young experiences of searching for self-fulfillment.

But in that moment, in the dark of the night, the hand of a girl reaches out and the melodrama that only a 16-year-old could produce evaporates. It is, after all, the dark of the night, whether it be while playing a game of hide and seek or navigating a "make out maze," that gives us the courage to say what we mean, do what we want and feel a little more special.

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