Greetings again from the darkness. The debut feature of writer/director Natalia Leite takes on the all-too-familiar territory of a disenchanted teenager being smothered by a claustrophobic small town, and twists it into a nocturnal awakening that changes some lives, while leaving others forever jogging in place.
Sarah (Dianna Agron, “Glee”) is a bored, young local in a small Nevada town. She gets fired from her job as a supermarket checker and spends her time hanging out with her boyfriend (Chris Zylka) and their group of equally unambitious friends. One day she stumbles upon Pepper (Paz de la Huerta, “Boardwalk Empire”) who is sleeping in an abandoned store owned by Sarah’s father. Intrigued by the drifter, Sarah allows herself to be drawn into Pepper’s world of drugs and strippers. A quick trip to Las Vegas really opens up Sarah’s eyes to the great big world, and also leads to some amorous feelings toward Pepper.
Clichés abound here as the mysterious stranger awakens the spirit of the small town dreamer; the taboo love story; the judgmental family and friends; and the “one last shift” to earn enough money to flee this small town and discover one’s true purpose while living a carefree life. Pepper tosses out some philosophical musings and Sarah falls hook, line and sinker. We fully expect this to end badly for both.
Filmmaker Leite does a nice job of creating the feel of the night without judging its participants too harshly. Dianna Agron has the screen presence to pull off the innocent girl’s self-discovery, while Paz de la Huerta has the mysterious quality of one to whom someone like the Sarah character would be drawn. It’s interesting how Sarah is allowed to choose her own path, and explore the possibilities of what might be. At best, the film is one for a sleepless night, and it does provide two disparate female leads and a director who has earned more opportunities.