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|Index||14 reviews in total|
The movie is split into four acts. The first three tell the story from
the perspective of each of the three main characters, respectively, and
the last act is a kind of epilogue. The film is still linear though,
meaning that while the second act shows a different perspective than
the first, it's still a continuation of the story, rather than a
restart from the beginning. The rest of the acts continue that way.
The first act had me wondering why I was putting myself through what seemed to be your run-of-the-mill teen drama that might as well have been an episode of The O.C. rather than a feature film. A typical high school "good girl" who always played it safe and never got into trouble starts questioning her value system. She wonders if being "bad" would benefit her, namely, to give her the life experience she needs in order to realize her dreams of becoming an actress. Her lifelong platonic male best friend is worried about her newfound rebelliousness, and he even feels betrayed by it.
Sometime during the second act is when this film started to deviate from anything I had expected. When the third act came, the story had gotten so messed up that I felt ashamed of my initial assumptions. I'm not even going to hint at what happens, because it might soften the impact of seeing it unfold on the screen. All I'll say is that it deals with questioning the seeming obviousness of people's sexuality and popularity. This turned out to be something of an artsy picture that didn't focus on typical Hollywood entertainment values. It's "smart", in that it's not always obvious what exactly is going on, and there's no voice-over to tell you what the characters are feeling. It's an original story that makes you think.
Was this movie good? Tough call. The acting is excellent and the production quality high. Some people might be bored or just confused by this, due to the strangeness and ambiguity. If you like a deviation now and then from the norm, you might appreciate it, and if you're into independent film, definitely give this a shot.
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
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.
A pop-art animation shows a pair of hands, wrapped around an iPhone. On
the screen, the thumbs tap out the opening credits. Occasionally, the
hands reject incoming calls from Mom. They also accidentally type out
things like "props!" and "OMG". It is a rather embarrassing attempt to
seem down with the kids (or is that kidz?) but thankfully, it is also
misleading. The film itself has an entirely different tone. 'Dare' is
not another typical teen-rom-rom about puberty and trying to get laid.
Alexa (Emmy Rossum) is an innocent, hard-working drama student. After failing to impress a big theatre star (Alan Cumming), she is advised to experience new things in order to improve her acting. She decides to seduce her drama partner, Johnny (Zach Gilford), who acts tough to hide his sensitivity. Ben (Ashley Springer), Alexa's gay best friend, is jealous of their relationship and decides to have a go at Johnny too. Their relationships soon become an uncomfortable and confusing love-triangle.
The film is divided into three parts, each one following a different main character. The more focused characterisation allows for a more effective display of all the awkwardness and insecurity associated with adolescence. Each of the main characters is given their own screen-time to grow and develop, and as a result there is much more substance.
'Dare' is at its strongest when the audience gets to see the characters go about their own lives, without the hassle of narrative development. On their own, the three individual segments of the film could have easily been short, John Hughes-esque films about different teenagers and their approaches to the issues of growing up.
The character of Alexa goes from innocent, uptight bookworm to sexy party girl too quickly, but Rossum plays both 'versions' just fine. Springer does a good job portraying Ben's struggle to deal with his homosexuality, and it is touching to see him find confidence in himself. Gilford gives the most convincing and layered performance of all as Johnny. He channels Marlon Brando and James Dean in his sensitive tough-guy act and it is effective, especially when it becomes apparent that he has severe rejection issues.
The problem with this kind of narrative structure is that there's too much characterisation for the love-triangle storyline. There is too much attention on each individual personality and not enough on mixing those personalities together. The characters end up changing too quickly, and it is clear that this is merely for the sake of pushing the love story along.
The film's attempt to be a coming-of-age drama and a love story at the same time backfires. It is too much of a character piece for the love-triangle story not to seem forced. By the time the abrupt ending comes around, one can't help but feel cheated, or disappointed by the wasted potential.
As a character study 'Dare' certainly excels, but as a narrative it is never compelling enough to be remembered. This film is likely to resonate with anybody who has ever been a teenager, but just because it resonates does not guarantee that it will be memorable. For his first feature-length effort, Adam Salky has done a decent job. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with in the future.
In "Dare," Alexa (played by the winning Emmy Rossum) is an
inexperienced, socially inept teenaged actress who decides to become a
"bad girl" so she'll be more in touch with the characters she's playing
(her current role is that of the world-weary Blanche Dubois in a high
school production of "A Streetcar Named Desire"). Not only does this
open up a whole new realm of experiences for the young lady herself,
but it leads to a chain reaction for the two most important people in
her life: her geeky best friend, Ben (Ashley Springer), who becomes
seemingly jealous when Alexi takes up with the school's brooding,
arrogant jock, Johnny (Zach Gilford); and Johnny himself who reveals
some surprising truths about himself before the story's over. "Dare" is
all about the roles we take on at various points in our lives, and how
different we can appear to the world once the masks we are wearing are
stripped off - thereby making the theatrical context the story uses a
metaphor for real life.
Writer David Brind has divided his story into three parts, each focused on a different main character (Alexi comes first, followed by Ben, then Johnny). Since this has been largely conceived and constructed as a parable, the narrative lacks credibility on occasion and the storytelling does become a bit heavy-handed at times, but some genuinely unexpected plot twists, a blunt and honest approach towards sex and sexuality, an intriguing look at the boundaries of friendship, and an overall complexity of character make the film difficult to dismiss out of hand. In fact, its strangeness is probably its most compelling feature. Brind and director Adam Salky are obviously going for something offbeat and unusual here, and it is all to the movie's advantage ("Dare" is actually a fleshed-out version of a short film Salky made a few years earlier).
Fans of "Friday Night Lights" will be intrigued at seeing Gilford in a role that appears at first blush to be diametrically opposed to the sweet and likable Matt Saracen he plays on the series, though, as the story progresses and more layers are peeled off the character, we discover that Matt and Johnny actually have quite a bit in common with one another - mainly their feeling that they are largely unloved and alone in the world (Matt just deals with it better).
In addition to the three striking leads, Alan Cumming and Sandra Bernhard lend their support to the project in small but significant roles.
Despite its imperfections, this tale of youthful self-discovery emerges as a thoughtful and insightful look at the often painful, confusing, fumbling - yet wholly necessary - efforts teenagers must go through to find their place in the world.
Dare was a genuinely surprising film. Having seen the short years ago
at a gay film fest I thought that I knew what the story would be about
and I was fully prepared to be disappointed that the feature wasn't as
good as the short. Boy was I wrong! The film took me places I didn't
expect and left me with images and ideas that I'll remember for a long
time. There were likable, realistic characters that I genuinely cared
about and a well written feature-length storyline that neatly
incorporated the short that preceded it.
There were spots where the film showed its indie-film roots but, for the most part, the scenes were studio grade. The dialog was mostly well written, the actors knew their craft, and the director succeeded in bringing all of the filmic elements together better than most works of this kind. The overall tenor of the film was moderately light-hearted considering the subject matter and does a nice job of balancing the problems of high-school life with its promise.
Zach Gilford did a great job and turned a character that I thought of as a bit of a cad in the short into a sympathetic waif.
This is NOT a major studio release and if you go into it looking for that you'll be disappointed but if you'd like to see a nice small movie that treats issues of being gay in high-school as just one issue that today's youth deal with, then this may be the film for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wouldn't call this a typical teen angst movie. It has some
interesting twists and a surprising bit of innocence that you wouldn't
guess from the trailers and descriptions.
Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer and Ana Gasteyer were the highlights of the film for me. (I'm not normally a fan of Ana's work, but I liked her in this.)
Warning, the rest is a potential Spoiler...
Alan Cumming's role is quite short, but his his character's words perhaps explain more about the actual story than anyone else's. If you watch the movie and find yourself scratching your head when the end credits roll, go back and watch his scenes. How is a great actor created? Do life lessons that just happen to you naturally because of who you are have a bigger impact on your life than ones you unnaturally try to force to occur? I think those questions play a big part in how the characters end up.
Overall I think it's a good movie, a bit more complicated than some, no easy answers or simple conclusion. If you're the kind of person who tries hard to present yourself as something that you're not, you may appreciate this movie more than others.
I would recommend this film for anyone who finds themselves interested
in sexuality in general or especially teen sexual awakenings. The plot
itself is not extremely gripping but the actors bring a certain raw,
candid look at "graduating" adolescence and embarking upon the lifelong
trip of finding one's identity.
Those who wish a typical Hollywood or status quo film experience should stay away from this one as it's quite creative and caters to those seeking intellectual or romantic pondering. So while this film is indeed interesting the average movie-watcher may find it lacking for entertainment value.
The plot between Johnny and Alexa seemed quite average but when things became heated between Ben and Alexa he seemed to become quite childish in the fact of he wanted his best friend returned to him so he tried to take away her new toy type of deal. Although he was discovering himself I found it quite wrong in the way of getting Alexa back. Johnny's self discovery is understandable yet slightly twisted(not negatively plot wise) Alexa's feelings toward Johnny were easier to follow. And in the end Alexa seemed to truly be sorry to Johnny although the ending was more of a non-ending there wasn't much closure. I didn't like Ben's storyline because he seemed too manipulative and quite cold. I found the character of Courtney really interesting.
This film was only good because the acting was solid throughout the whole film, although the character Ben played by Ashley Springer was a little possessive and creepy at times, he still seemed to be true. Zac Gilford shined as Johnny Drake a loner, showing he has range other than wholesome Matt from Friday Night Lights. And Emmy Rossum was excellent as Alexa, the sweet and pure Sandra Dee of the coming-of-age film. So why only a 3/10? The three was for the actors and the -7 was for the writer of this mess. The story did not blend well, it was too jumpy and incoherent. i am not a huge fan of voice-overs, but this needed it to fill all the gaps in the story. It seems that the writer had watched Dawson's Creek and Cruel Intentions and through in a little sexual confusion into the pot, stirred it and came up with this half told tale. The conclusion is there is no real conclusion, just more ambiguity to confuse the confused.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's get a couple of things straight. This movie is rated R for sexual
content but Emmy Rossum does not get naked in it. If that's what you're
looking for, trust me, you won't find it here. What you will find is
one of the reasons movie critics get so cranky. When you see a critic
who appears overly harsh about a film's flaws, it could be because he
or she has seen those same flaws in so many other movies. That's what
happens with Dare. It does something I've seen in at least 2 or 3 other
films and not only does it never work, I don't think it can work and
don't understand why anyone ever thinks it would.
What Dare does is completely shift its focus from one character to another as it goes along. I'm not talking about focusing on many different people whose stories intersect or even telling the same story over again with different perspectives. I'm talking about one continuous story where the main character simply changes as you watch, oftentimes with a little notice on screen to indicate the change.
Where this storytelling device comes from is a mystery to me. What I am clear on is that it's defective, at least in the context of a motion picture. Whatever the theory or intent, the practical effect of doing this in a film is to ask the audience to do the same thing over and over again. At the start of the movie, the viewer is introduced to a character and asked to take an interest in their life. Then that character is either ejected or relegated to the background and the viewer is introduced to another character and asked to take an interest in their life. And that's repeated again and sometimes again and again and again.
The problem with this should be obvious. If the audience actually takes interest in the first character you show them, that's who they want to watch. They don't want that person to be replaced by some other character, either one they haven't seen before or one they have but has been established as a minor character in their minds. The first 10 or 15 minutes of a motion picture is usually when people figure out if they want to watch it or not. Rotating the main character is asking people to go through that introductory process over and over and that's not a natural thing.
Dare rotates through three main characters. Alexa (Emmy Rossum) is a virginal theater chick in her high school. Her story is about how she's emotionally repressed and inexperienced and how being taunted about that by a well known alumnus of her school transforms her into a slut. Next up to bat is Alexa's best friend Ben (Ashley Springer). His story is about how he's gay and well, that's pretty much it. The commonality of the first two segments is that Alexa and Ben both have their first sexual encounter with the same guy. He's Johnny (Zach Gilford) and he takes over as the main character in the third and thankfully final part of the movie. After being shown as the cool but still somewhat dickish most popular kid in school, Johnny's segment is about how he's really even more screwed up than either Alexa and Ben because blah, blah blah. Alexa's story is the only one I cared about and it gets shoved off screen just as they start to show the fallout of her making a radical change in her life, replacing it with the utterly-by-the-numbers tales of Ben and Johnny.
Well, utterly-by-the-numbers isn't accurate. Ben has sex with Johnny after he knows Alexa and Johnny have boinked and Johnny knows Alexa and Ben are best friends when he and Ben do it. I know kids today are supposed to be more sexually fluid, but that's pretty twisted and Dare loses its last chance to engage the audience by having Ben be totally unconcerned by such bed hopping, Johnny treating it like having to choose between chocolate and vanilla ice cream and Alexa acting as though the cross-copulating is like eating your salad with the wrong fork.
By the time Dare wraps up, it's clear that Alexa was ultimately a supporting character to Johnny's story and Ben was barely more than a bit part, even though the ending to Johnny's story happens entirely off camera. That's the kind of nonsensical structure you get from rotating main characters. It doesn't work and filmmakers need to stop doing it.
The acting and the direction of Dare are fine and the dialog is unmemorable, but none of that matters because it's so poorly structured. If this film were a house, it would be condemned and the only ones who could live in it would be families of raccoons. I could have overlooked that if Emmy Rossum had gotten naked. She doesn't, so I can't.
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