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It's the final semester before graduating from high school, and aspiring actress and good girl Alexa (Emmy Rossum), her outcast gay best friend Ben (Ashley Springer), and loner bad boy Johnny (Zach Gilford), go outside their comfort zones, and throw caution to the wind as they venture into unfamiliar young adult sexual grounds. A bumpy ride of high emotion, betrayal, heartbreak, and sexual experimentation. Written by
Unique coming of age drama about three high school seniors and the shady relationship that develops between them. Alexa is a wannabe actress who becomes uncomfortable at the very mention of sex. She hangs out with her childhood friend Ben, who's only friend is Alexa. They're both in drama class (Ben handles the stage lights) with Johnny, the most popular jock in school. He's only there because he has to be, much to the chagrin of Alexa since he's her acting partner. Following a truly rotten performance, a popular actor gives Alexa a piece of his mind, basically telling her that only through proper life experience will she ever have a remote chance of being a good actress. Devastated, she decides to get some experience through Johnny while perhaps escalating their on-stage chemistry in the process. None of this sits well with Ben, who has his own encounter with Johnny. It all leads to an unexpected triangle where the most unlikely person might wind up getting hurt.
Early on, I figured this would be your typical quirky teen indie, but it takes a turn into darker territory. It ends up taking on a more psychological route as it tackles themes of discovering yourself sexually and popularity sometimes only being skin deep. Emmy Rossum, who hasn't been in many films worthy of her talent, is solid as the naive good girl turned manipulative user. The change in her character may be a little abrupt, but she handles it well. Saying that, I still think the writers could've spent more time gradually exploring her transformation. Ashley Springer is okay as Ben, but his character turns into too much of a perverse oddball by film's end. Good choice for the role of outsider, though. The real star of the picture is Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights fame. He gives a layered turn as the tortured Johnny. It's a very different role from his awkward, somewhat shy FNL character, and he shows that he has the depth to pull it off. Rooney Mara also makes an impression as Courtney, Alexa's best friend. Looking at her IMDb page after viewing this film, I was very surprised to see that she's playing Nancy in the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake.
While the acting is mostly strong, I will say that Alexa and Ben are hard to relate to as the film goes on. Again, a little more time on their transformations would have been nice. The ending also leaves something to be desired. It just isn't wrapped up in a very satisfying manner. As it stands, Dare is far from great. The story and characters both could have been better developed, but I'd say it's worth a look for those who don't mind teen dramas that are a bit off of the beaten path.
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