I was surprised to read on the Rotten Tomatoes reviews page for Dare that at least a couple of critics took it as a comedy (and that's two of the ones that liked it). I didn't get that. To me, at least, it's a drama, probably even a melodrama.
It seems to have aspirations to be a kind of a psychological (psychosexual) horror story in a teen setting (or The Breakfast Club gone wild).
The story of three high school seniors, who reach out to define, or redefine themselves, on reflection it reminded me of a Mark Evanier line I quote a lot:
"We all do childish and insensitive things when we're 17. There are no exceptions to this rule and if you think you're one, you probably did more than your share."
But, it's a movie that knocks at your mind and never quite gets into your heart; never makes the leap off the screen. So we are just as happy to leave it there.
It is helped immeasurably by a trio of young star actors, two of whom were known to me previously. Emmy Rossum shows that she has it in her to grow beyond eye candy.
Zach Gilford, likewise, shows that he has the equipment for the long haul by rocking a character completely unlike his Friday Night Lights persona.
Ashley Springer completes the leads. New to me (and apparently to the screen), he allows humanity to shoot through what was in danger of being a caricature of the repressed gay.
Ana Gasteyer leads the older supporting players as his mother; there are surprising (in good ways, meaning they show parts of their craft I haven't seen before) cameos by Alan Cumming and Sandra Bernhard.
A young woman named Rooney Mara also bears watching as an up-and-comer. Though her part is hazily written, she succeeds in making us--me, anyway--want to get to know her better, and it isn't only because she's sexy.
Emmy Rossum is sexy, and I wouldn't want to get to know her character in this movie any more than I do at the final blackout, thanks.
This is one of those movies that it's hard to say what makes it only good, not great. As I say, it isn't the acting. And nothing really stands up and yells "BAD" about the script (by David Brind), either.
My best bet is that it's the direction (by Adam Salky), which is notably "stage-y" on a couple of occasions. Not always, however. A lot of this movie is told through looks, and a lot of the time, the director dares to get us right up close.