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Review: Teen angst comedy ‘Girl Asleep’ gets surreal

Tom Long
The Detroit News

‘Girl Asleep” is a perfectly normal if spirited look at teen angst, until it’s not.

The teen angst thing doesn’t go away, but all normality is abandoned about halfway through the film, when the titular girl does indeed fall asleep and enters some bizarre dream world for most of the rest of the movie. That dream world isn’t completely effective, but give this film points for daring to make a hard right turn.

It’s 1970s Australia and we meet teen Greta (Bethany Whitmore) sitting alone on a bench in a school playground. Her family has recently moved to the area and she knows no one. Luckily (or not) a geeky redheaded boy named Elliott (Harrison Feldman) plops down beside her and starts making awkward conversation. Then he brings her a doughnut and a friendship is born.

Greta has problems at home: Her older sister is make-out crazy, her icy mother drinks too much wine, and her father is too docile. Plus, it’s the ’70s, so everybody looks fairly ridiculous.

She also has problems at school. A group of Mean Girls want her to join their clique, but there’s nothing mean about Greta. Which, of course, turns the Mean Girls against her.

Then comes the really bad news: Greta’s mother invites the whole school to her 15th birthday party, a party Greta doesn’t even want. And sure enough, despite some wonderfully cheesy disco dance sequences, the party goes bad for Greta. So she goes to sleep.

And fever dreams her way through all the troubles we’ve already encountered, although the troubles are dressed in bizarre costumes and she’s accompanied by an Icelandic warrior woman (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). The problem with the dream sequence is that it’s a bit too obvious, despite all the imagery.

Still, director Rosemary Myers keeps things jumping in this film, from the background visuals to the many over-the-top moments. Nobody will doze off while watching “Girl Asleep.”

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Girl Asleep’

GRADE: B-

Not rated

Running time: 77 minutes

The Detroit Film Theatre