FILM RATING: 3 stars
Sometimes I think it may seem to others like I only watch more “mainstream” big budget Hollywood movies and less of the small controversial indies. But I really do watch a variety of films that interest me regardless of who made them, who’s in them, how much they were made for, or whether they had box office success. It’s the story that is most important to me. I love a well made $200 million summer blockbuster as much as the next person, but I also love a well-crafted little indie film shot for pennies on the dollar compared to what James Cameron & Michael Bay get for budgets.
DVD and the internet have been the best thing to happen to small films in my opinion. They’ve made these films accessible to people in the comfort and privacy of their home where they can enjoy these stories that they might not pay $10 to see in a theater, assuming they could even find a theater showing them. Dare (2009) is a small movie that fits into this category. When I first heard about this movie because of its appearance at Sundance in 2009, I was intrigued by the story and wanted to watch it. Who doesn’t like a “coming-of-age” story. There are hundreds of them out there in books, movies, television, and music. We’ve all come of age and know the difficulties of that process. And we seem to love to reminisce about it as we get older…in both positive and negative ways.
Actor Zach Gilford, the “star” of Dare, was introduced to me in the TV show Friday Night Lights and I thought he was very good in that show, so seeing his name on this movie certainly helped. Dare came out in theaters at the end of last year and didn’t see much box office moola. But it was recently released on DVD and Netflix Instant Viewing, where I watched it recently…which by the way, is part of the future of movies. Having on-demand access at your TV in your Living Room to anything and everything at anytime, like iTunes has done for music, is where movie distribution is going IMO. Goodbye to the DVD and Blu-Ray discs as soon as we get the bandwidth issues resolved on the internet.
Anyways, back to Dare. Dare is basically a story about 3 high school seniors finding themselves in their final year of high school and before they become “adults”. Johnny, as played by Zach Gilford, is the “popular” jock-type rich kid that seems to always be in these tales, but he’s really not that guy, as we discover through the journey of the film. Johnny is actually a depressed and lonely lost soul whose lack of parental involvement in his life has taken a toll on his psyche. He has lots of “friends”, but he doesn’t have a connection with any of them seemingly because they are all too shallow and fake. He’s searching for real people to have a real connection with and whom he can share his desire to love and feel loved with. Love is what has been missing from his young life.
Alexa is the repressed girl who hasn’t really expressed herself or allowed herself to experience anything outside of what she was told to do. She’s yearning to experience life and to take risks and be bold, simply I think so that she can know how those things feel. She wants to feel like she’s living her life. And finally, Ben is the awkward nerdy guy who doesn’t have many friends, isn’t popular, and is hiding from being gay. His best friend is Alexa, whom he’s known since they were young kids.
All three of these characters are on that search for who they are and how to be themselves. As part of Alexa’s journey, she decides to go after Johnny and become the girl Johnny normally goes for. Seeing that transformation in Alexa, Ben decides to do the same…with Johnny as well. So a love triangle and friendship triangle ensues for the three of them. The movie is divided into 3 acts, each act focused on telling the intertwined stories of these three people from the point of view of each of them.
What was interesting to me about this story was that I was able to relate to all three characters, each in a different way. There was a part of my story, and I’m assuming this is true for most people, in each of these teenagers. But Johnny and his 3rd-act story was the one that I connected most powerfully with, certainly by design I think from Director Adam Salky. Being lost and confused in so many ways in his life, Johnny is who represents young men today in my opinion. Women have been on an incredible journey to equality in our culture, but at the same time, the roles of men and the expectations of who they should be have changed dramatically in the past 40 years. And I think that young men are having a harder time right now finding their place in our new culture of strong and empowered women. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% supportive of strong women’s rights and equality within society, but not at the sacrifice of the same thing for men. I think the scales have tilted from men to women and that we are in search of balance now. And as a young man, Johnny represents this new confusing journey that we men are going through. And that is what I connected with in the story of Dare.