After a slot in competition at Sundance and a closing night screening at Outfest, Image Entertainment is bringing Adam Salky’s “Dare” to US theaters in limited release this week. The high school drama stars Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, and Ashley Springer as last-semester seniors who experiment with each other and their own identities. Rossum is the theater geek; Gilford, the jock, and Springer the gay teen investigating his sexuality. The film offers at least a little something for everyone, even for the majority of critics, who have had a mild response to the film.
Tim Grierson at Screen Daily summarizes his thoughts on the film, “Addressing serious themes through deceptively campy humour and outrageous sexual antics, Dare manages to revamp teen-movie archetypes. Director Adam Salky and screenwriter David Brind go for shock value in their tale of three students who cope with their final semester of high school by seducing one another, but while not all the filmmakers’ gambits work, this low-budget comedy is thematically daring and increasingly engrossing as it rolls along.”
For Adam Keleman in Slant Magazine, the filmmakers’ success is hard to separate from their mistakes, “The writer and director deserve kudos for thoughtfully dissecting the narrative between the three characters as perspective uniquely changes throughout, exposing complex, if somewhat contrived, layers to the characters. (Is Johnny really that depressed?) But the film merely scratches the surface of the daily struggles and challenges of the socially handicapped teen, confusing sexual experimentation and fulfillment for actual character development.”
In a short review, Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman gives the film a C+. He says, “Dare, a sweetly sexed-up high school triangle movie, is like a John Hughes comedy trying to pass itself off as ‘transgressive’…The actors, all great camera subjects, help give director Adam Salky’s overly pat movie a trace of confessional conviction.”
Time Out New York‘s David Fear, in fact, only finds one thing worth admiring in the film: Zach Gilford. “There’s one bright spot amid all the awkward groping and abundant onscreen texting, and his name is Zach Gilford. Fans of TV’s Friday Night Lights already know that the actor can play petulant and mumbly, but as he proves here, there’s a vast range of young-adult sensitivity that he’s able to communicate with amazing grace. Gilford plays the character like a walking emotional bruise; the rest of the cast either can’t compete or simply don’t dare to.” Andrew Schenker agrees in the Village Voice, “Zach Gilford’s game performance is still no match for the film’s catalog of easy ironies, awkward framings, and advice on how to play Blanche DuBois cribbed from season 4, episode 2 of The Simpsons.”