DARE is based on a short film of the same name, both directed by Adam Salky. Whereas the short film (which has appeared in collections such as Boys Life, Vol. 5 [DVD
]) placed its emphasis on the awkward fumblings of two high-school males, this feature-length version inevitably attempts to cast a much wider net.
The character afforded most screen time is actually Alexa (Emmy Rossum); a studious high-school girl with a passion for drama, who is spurned by the 'cool kids'. When a professional actor shoots down Alexa's dreams by telling her she must experience life before she could be a good actress, Alexa morphs chrysalis-fashion from naïve-ugly-duckling to seductress-swan, setting her sights on cute rebel Johnny (Zach Gilford) and shunning her geeky best friend Ben in the process.
What starts out as typical teen-drama fare takes a Cruel Intentions [DVD
] turn, as Alexa and Ben compete with one another for the brooding Johnny's affections. The character of Johnny is progressively fleshed-out as he becomes the fly in Alexa and Ben's web. He is in fact the most interesting character, his polymorphous needs propelling the drama - and the threesome - in an unexpected direction.
The concept is a strong one, and there are some decent supporting performances (including Sandra Bernhard as Johnny's therapist), yet somehow the film falls short of its great potential. It's fresh in many respects, yet staid in others; a curious mix of compelling nuanced drama and soap opera stereotype.
Overall DARE is worth a look; although viewers hoping for a more intense version of the original short film may possibly be somewhat disappointed. It's relatively early days for director Adam Salky; perhaps future work will be more successful in crystallizing his obvious potential.