Who's In It: Claire Sloma, Annette DeNoyer, Amanda Bauer, Marlon Morton, Brett Jacobsen, Jade Ramsey, Nikita Ramsey
The Basics: It's the last weekend of summer vacation in an unnamed Midwestern suburb during an unspecified era (there's hip hop and The Magnetic Fields in the background but no cell phones or laptops, so early to mid '90s is a decent guess). A bunch of kids, mostly white--all played by actual teenage newcomers instead of 27-year-old pros--ranging in age from middle school graduation to college and possessing varying degrees of adaptive teen social skills, roam around their leafy zip code. They move from young girl slumber party to parents-free kegger to college freshman orientation, all in search of the perfectly soundtracked adolescent moment of real feeling (aka making out with anybody who'll agree to it).
What's The Deal: This movie's best qualities come from what it's not. Shot in actual middle-class bedrooms and living rooms, scripted in a way that (generally) allows for a healthy amount of aimless, inarticulate teenage speech to rule most of the conversations, it's stripped down instead of pumped up to 90210 levels of fantasy adolescence. And shots that echo every teen film that's come before don't payoff with gross-out gags, wrongheaded virginity loss, mask-wearing serial murderers, house-wrecking megaparties gone insane or full-time losers getting to kiss the hottest girl in school. If it were reality TV, the producers would be frantically scrambling to manufacture fake "drama," but no one bothered to worry about that here. Instead, everyone just gets a chance to breathe.
What's Wrong With It: Every so often the movie forgets to allow its kids to casually mumble their way through the unshowy cinematic night and a scene will grind to a halt while an unlucky neo-actor is forced to deliver a few lines of let's-explain-the-movie dialogue. The most obvious moment occurs when a teenage pool employee has to all but say the title of the film and come to way-too-adult wisdom about the passing of youth. These moments pass quickly but they stick out like sore thumbs.
What's Right: It never lies about teenage castes and doesn't spread itself too thinly in any sort of egalitarian attempt to cover all the bases. The four characters who more or less function as the leads are attractive and reasonably confident, qualities that the movie understands as a premium during adolescence. To his credit, director David Robert Mitchell never comes right out and explains this and never pretends that these kids are more or less than what they are. Their awkward friends already know to take the backseat and the kids who aren't popular enough to be invited to even the least guest-listy party are nowhere to be found. If you want that indie movie then you'll need to go watch Welcome to the Dollhouse instead.