Sundance Review: Dare

Dare, for a movie about teenagers in their last semester of high school, is a deeper movie than you’d expect. The film, directed by Adam Salky, is broken up into three parts with each part focusing on one of three teens. Alexa (Emmy Rossum) is the overachieving good girl who’s used to excelling at everything she does. Ben (Ashley Springer), Alexa’s best friend, is on the verge of accepting his homosexuality. Johnny (Zach Gilford) is popular, rich, and puts on a show about being a bad boy but deep down he’s just a lonely guy.

The film starts out with Alexa’s story. She’s put on the pill because she’s missing periods due to stress. As part of the drama club, she’s trying to get her role down perfectly but something’s not right. Her scene partner, Johnny is indifferent about the project and only doing drama because he was kicked off of the soccer team for smoking. When Grant Mason, an alumnus of the high school and accomplish actor comes to town, Alexa has the chance to meet with him in the hopes of getting tips on how to be a better actor. His blunt honesty isn’t what she expects when he tells her that if she wants to be a good actor, she needs to experience things and take chances. This inspires Alexa to change her act. She does it by losing the geeky sweaters and seducing Johnny.

Ben’s a closeted homosexual who, after seeing his best friend’s abrupt change in wardrobe and attitude, is both enraged and inspired by her decision to step away from the role she’s been playing all her life. So he decides to do exactly what Alexa does. He seduces Johnny. And that brings us to Johnny, the typical high school guy, or so we’re made to believe. It turns out, Johnny’s the more lost than Alexa or Ben were. While he’s got the rest of the popular crowd fooled into thinking he’s the leader of the pack, he’s really looking for something more out of life. He accepts both Alexa’s and Ben’s affections because for the first time he has people of actual substance interested in him rather than just the blind adoration of a bunch of typical rich high school kids and the non-affection of his stepmother, abscent mother and the father who’s always out of town. Johnny, whom we learn is prone to panic attacks is clearly lacking love in his life and more than willing to accept it from both Ben and Alexa, even if it pushes the boundaries in the relationships between all three of them.

Rossum, Gilford, and Springer all deliver solid performances in their respective roles. Alan Cumming also shows up, making the most of a small as a puffed up actor with good advice for Alexa. The change in all three of the characters is fairly drastic, which is probably why as Dare progressed, you’ll find yourself locked in to what’s going on. Dare portrays teenagers with actual depth, breaking away from the conventional stories we see so often in films involving high schoolers these days. It’ll stick with you long after the movie’s over.

Kelly West
Assistant Managing Editor

Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.